What Happened to the 1200 Paintings Painted by Bob Ross? The Mystery Has Finally Been Solved

Very few artists enjoy the degree of recognition that’s been conferred upon the late television educator Bob Ross, though sales of his work hover around zero.

It’s not due to scarcity. Ross pumped out three nearly-identical paintings per episode of his series, The Joy of Painting (watch them online here). That’s 403 episodes over the course of 31 seasons on public television—or 1209 canvases of clouds, mountains, and “happy little trees.”

Shouldn’t economics dictate that these would have only increased in value following their creator’s untimely death from lymphoma in 1994?




A handful have been donated to the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History’s permanent collection. Leaving those aside, why are there no Bob Rosses fetching high prices on the auction block?

Is the painter’s legendary hypnotic appeal a factor? Did he subconsciously manipulate even the most cutthroat collectors into a state of sentimental attachment wherein profit matters not a jot?

As The New York Times-produced video above points out, Ross’ great mission in life was to get others painting—quickly and joyfully.

Which is not to say he blithely tossed the fruits of his labor into the incinerator after that purpose had been served.

The reason Ross’ paintings aren’t on the market is they’re neatly stacked in cardboard cartons at Bob Ross Inc. in Herndon, Virginia. It hardly constitutes archival storage, but the boxes are neatly numbered, and everything is accounted for.

And that is where they’re likely to remain, according to executive assistant Sarah Strohl and president Joan Kowalski, the daughter of Ross’ longtime business partner. (Her mother, Annette is Ross’ former student and the foremost authenticator of his work.)

For now, if anyone endeavors to sell you a Bob Ross original, it’s safe to assume it’s a fake.

Better yet, paint your own. Bob Ross Inc. tends to both the master’s reputation and his lucrative off-screen business, selling instructional books and painting supplies.

Be forewarned, though, it’s won’t be as easy as the ever-placid master made it seem. Have a look at these comedians scrambling to keep up with his moves for the Bob Ross Challenge, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Ross, of course, never broke a sweat on camera, which lends a bit of cognitive dissonance to the Times’ video’s frenetic editing. (I never thought I’d have to issue a seizure warning for something Bob Ross-related, but those canvases flash by awfully quickly at the 1:09 mark and again at 10:36. )

Explore a complete database of 31 seasons’ worth of Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting artworks here. Or watch all of the televised shows here. Just don’t expect to purchase one any time soon.

Related Content: 

Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy Of Painting Free Online: 403 Episodes Spanning 31 Seasons

Watch 13 Comedians Take “The Bob Ross Challenge” & Help Raise Money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

A Big List of Free Art Lessons on YouTube

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on September 9 for the kick off of another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 


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  • Chris says:

    Why did Bob Ross himself specially say on his show this statement?

    “One of the questions that I hear over and over and over is, ‘What do we do with all these paintings we do on television?’ Most of these paintings are donated to PBS stations across the country. They auction them off, and they make a happy buck with ‘em. So if you’d like to have one, get in touch with your PBS station, cause…we give them to stations all over the country to help them out with their fundraisers.”

    Did his Company reacquire all paintings donated to fundraisers?

  • Clay Maloy says:

    This is what I have heard!

  • Donna Marie Mattingly says:

    I found Bob Ross painting years ago when I was a teen. Back then we had no color TV but when I watched him paint he took my breath away. Now 50 some years later I can get enough of watching him do his thing. I hope one day to be half as good as he was and still is. I got my love for everything art from him. He hooked me and now that I could get my hands on his art sets and dvds. I have found a new purposes in life. If I could upload one of my wet on wet paintings I would love others see what watching him and his theres no mistakes just happy accidents. THANK YOU! BOB ROSS for what you’ve given me.

  • Brenda says:

    I am a 75years old Australian fighting cancer in both lungs and liver. I found his shows by accident and was hooked from then on…Is it possible to get a dvd of a few of his paintings..I cant paint but Bob has made cutious to see if I can…

  • Ruth Owens says:

    Sorry to hear about your cancer Brenda and hope you win the Battle . I have recently found Bob Ross and find him totally inspirational . I have always loved painting but have renewed my enthusiasm by listening to and watching Bob on The Joy of Painting . He is an oasis of calm during this pandemic and am sure you will find that you have hidden talents. Certainly worth a try.
    All Best wishes
    Ruth. 🎨👍

  • Ruth Owend says:

    Bob Ross has rekindled my love of painting and given me inspiration which is so important during this pandemic. Inertia could set in. I
    Wish Brenda all the best with her fight against cancer and wish her well on taking up painting . Hope she finds a hidden talent 🎨👍

  • Jane Potrzebowski says:

    We have an original painting of his and wondering how much it is worth it is autographed as well

  • Joy Shalaby says:

    I remember seeing Bob Ross on tv as a teenager in the 80’s. I always dabbled in art, like doodling, sketching etc. I dont have cable so watching tv one day, I came across The Joy Of Painting one morning in the wee hours- it was a weekend and its Bob Ross Maraton!! I was hooked! I started watching his videos andcpainting alongvwith him(rewinding many, many i should add another many times) I felt such a peaceful feeling each time I st down to paint and listen to him. While not religous by any means, Ive always found that Ive had stages of the sixth sense. I found myself asking God why Ive come to start painting at age 50 and why I feel a deep connection to Bob… long story short…One day I seen a sentence ” What happened to Bob Ross and when. as I started to read, I understood. I too am a scorpio and recently found out I have cancer and I have a poor prognosis from day one. I figured I have about 2years from when I found out due to all I read and like I said, some things I just know. Ive enjoyed my time painting and am happy to leave everyone I give a painting to, a piece of me. Something to leave behind that Im proud of, that I spent my last years doing. also knowing that Bob was a fellow scoripo and Ill pass at the same age he was, makes sense how and why this all came about. said Id keep it short but have ti mention I have cts as pets, have community cats in a colony outside and spends many hours, feeding and taljing with wildlife for many years, whih helped me to make sense of it all. Even in death, Bob is helibg me as Im sure he has and is for so many! Forever a ffan and friend in my head! The Best Always, Joy

  • Joy says:

    Hi Brenda, I just posted a message on here. I just started reading n posted one. I dont even know what site etc. this it but just wamted to say I too just found out I have cancer and have a poor prognosis. hope youre feeling as best as you can! I too just started painting with Bob(sorta speak) you can do it!! best wishes, Joy

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