Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Why the Smithsonian now owns paintings by Bob Ross - but few others do!

Trust me - you'll enjoy this! 

It's a happy little video about what happened to all those Bob Ross paintings that he painted - before, during and after "The Joy of Painting".

Published by the New York Times on 12 Jul 2019, it's already had more than 6 million views.

Did you know you can't buy a Bob Ross Painting?

That's because it has never occurred to Bob Ross Inc. to sell them.  The company which looks after his artistic estate is based  P.O. Box 946, Sterling, VA 20167 - but the building is closed to visitors and the paintings are all boxed up inside.

Bob used to paint three paintings for the famous The Joy of Painting television show
  • one before the show - as a reference
  • one during the show - in 26 minutes flat. Sometimes he introduced last minute improvisations. 
  • one after the show - for use in the "how to" instruction books
According to an analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight, Mr. Ross painted in 381 of the 403 episodes of the show (the rest featured a guest). If three versions were made of each of those paintings, at least 1,143 originals would exist. Bob Ross Inc. estimates that it has 1,165 paintings stored on site. New York Times
However his paintings never seem to come on the market.

This article perhaps best reflects why people love Bob Ross and want to buy his paintings - I Spent Two Months Trying to Buy a Bob Ross Painting Because Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

The New York Times set out to solve the big mystery of why you cannot buy a Bob Ross and wanted find out how many paintings there were - see Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings? We Found Them.

The consensus now is that there are 1,143 paintings associated with the show which were painted by Bob Ross.  It's surmised that there may also be paintings in existence which he painted as an instructor outside the TV show and in demonstrations - but that number is unknown. There are also the paintings he made before he started on TV.

The Smithsonian offered to take some of his paintings - and as a result, in 2019,  Bob Ross Inc. donated an array of artwork and artifacts to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the paintings and other objects officially became part of the museum’s permanent collection on March 22. You can see the paintings that were donated in the New York Times article.

Two exhibitions of paintings by Bob Ross

This year Bob Ross has paintings in two exhibitions in the USA.  Quite how the paintings were extracted from Bob Ross Inc. is a story which still needs to be told....

Happy Accidents: An Exhibit of Bob Ross Paintings

We are thrilled to host a rare exhibit of Bob Ross original paintings created during his long-running series on public television, courtesy of Bob Ross International. This is the first time his collection will be on public display in a gallery on the East Coast.

New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival

New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival presents works by twenty-seven artists whose works appropriate, critique, or embrace “New Age” aesthetics and concerns from a 21st-century perspective.

In addition, some of the original paintings from The Joy of Painting are hosted and displayed at the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery at 757 E. Third Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 32169.

Next year, people will be able to visit the studio in Muncie, Ind., where the show was taped.

Note: Bob Ross (1942-1995)

  • creator and host of The Joy of Painting,
  • this instructional television show aired for just over 11 years from January 11, 1983 to May 17, 1994 on PBS in the United States,
  • it was also broadcast in Canada, Latin America, and Europe.
  • he learned to paint while serving in the military from another TV instructor, the  German / American alla prima painter called Bill Alexander on his show The Magic of Oil Painting (listen to the heavy German accent in the above video!)
  • he was persuaded to start a business teaching painting by Annette Kowalski who had been one of his students. Along with Ross, she invested her life savings to help get it off the ground. Eventually it became a business worth $15 million.
  • he lived in Alaska for many years - while serving in Anchorage - and this influenced the things he liked to paint - mountains and fir trees
    In 2014, the blog FiveThirtyEight conducted a statistical analysis of the 381 episodes in which Ross painted live, concluding that 91 percent of Ross' paintings contained at least one tree, 44 percent included clouds, 39 percent included mountains and 34 percent included mountain lakes. Wikipedia
  • he had a number of catchphrases - notably happy little trees
I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, "Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy." That's for sure. That's why I paint. It's because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.  Bob Ross
  • he died age 52 in 1995 due to complications from lymphoma.
  • Bob Ross Inc. was inherited by the Kowalskis after his death and continues to market his tuition - but not his paintings - although Annette Kowalski is the only person who knows a Bob Ross painting when she sees one!
  • The Joy of Painting can now be watched on Netflix.