Bob Ross

Bob Ross at the easel

When you think of paintings worth millions of dollars, who comes to mind? Celebrated old masters like Leonardo da Vinci or Rembrandt? Famous pop artists like Andy Warhol? What about Bob Ross? As the host of the beloved Public Television show The Joy of Painting, Ross (1942-1995) is probably better known as a television personality than an artist. The Modern Artifact gallery in Minneapolis, Minn., may change that. Specializing in contemporary artists, the gallery has bought and sold Bob Ross paintings as well as works by widely recognized 20th-century artists like Dale Chihuly, Picasso, and Joan Miro.

Ross’s painting “A Walk in the Woods” is currently among the Modern Artifact Gallery’s priciest offerings, with an asking price of $9,850,000. As you might expect from the price, this painting has a special place in pop culture. It was painted for the first episode of The Joy of Painting, airing in 1983. Gallery owner Ryan Nelson calls it “the rookie card of Bob Ross.”

Walk in the Woods

The first on-air painting by Bob Ross in 1983 – A Walk in the Woods

The show continued for 403 episodes, ending in 1994. Ross created a new painting for each episode. The show is now available on multiple streaming services, and there is a Bob Ross channel with full episodes on YouTube.

Ross guided the viewers through the painting process, from selecting materials all the way to signing the finished work. He taught painting techniques, composition, perspective, and light and shade. He encouraged viewers to find beauty in nature. Most of all, he taught exactly what the show promised to deliver: the joy of painting. Ross made painting accessible and enjoyable. “Anybody can paint,” he told his audience. “All you need is a dream in your heart and a little practice.”

No matter what the painting sells for, these lessons and the joy viewers continue to get from them are priceless.

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