A painting from the first episode of Bob Ross’ “Joy of Painting” could go for millions of dollars.
The painting depicts a meandering stone path, a blue pond and golden trees. Ross painted the scene in less than 30 minutes on the 1983 premiere of what would become a hit PBS show. Ross signed the work with just his last name in red in the lower left corner.
Whoever buys the painting will receive a written statement from its original owner — a PBS volunteer who bought it at a benefit auction.
“I don’t know the exact number that she paid at that point, but knowing what others paid around the same period, I’d assume it was somewhere under $100,” Ryan Nelson, the owner of Modern Artifact gallery in Minneapolis, told NPR.
Nelson, whose gallery has become the primary facilitator of the growing Ross market, said he bought the painting from the PBS volunteer with the intention of selling it, but now isn’t so sure he’s ready to let it go.
“I think that the greatest thing we can do with it is travel it. I’d rather we get this in front of the public,” he said. “But there are definitely offers that I would probably have to take.”
Nelson is confident he’ll get his asking price, even if most Ross paintings that he’s traded don’t even break the six-figure range, NPR reported. Part of his confidence stems from the recent cultural resurgence Ross has enjoyed as younger generations discover his appeal through the internet.
The official Bob Ross YouTube page has more than 5.62 million subscribers. Netflix re-launched Ross’ second series, “Beauty is Everywhere” in 1991 and reruns of “The Joy of Painting” still appear regularly on public television.
The kindly artist with the soothing voice once said he painted more than 30,000 paintings during his life and likely painted 1,143 alone for the filming of the show, per NPR. An analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight calculated Ross produced paintings for 381 of the 403 episodes. His standard process was to make three of the same paintings for each show — one as a template to copy, one on camera and a third after the show for use in instructional materials.