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Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings?


Watched the video? Here are a few more details.


Bob Ross made three versions of each painting that appeared on “The Joy of Painting.” The first was made before the show, to be used for reference. The second was made in the 26 minutes of taping, sometimes with last-minute improvisations on the composition. The third was made afterward, for the instructional books.

The donation to the Smithsonian includes the book version of “Blue Ridge Falls,” from Season 30:

As well as all three versions of the painting “On a Clear Day,” from Season 14:

Other items include an easel used during the first season of the show that had been converted from a stepladder and two handwritten notebooks used to plan the production of Seasons 2 and 3 of “The Joy of Painting.”

“The hardest part was choosing the paintings,” Eric Jentsch, the entertainment and sports curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, said. Mr. Jentsch and his colleague Ryan Lintelman visited Bob Ross Inc. in Herndon, Va., to find the images and materials that would best exemplify Mr. Ross’s lifetime of work.

The Smithsonian also acquired fan letters sent to Mr. Ross, including some written after he died of lymphoma in 1995 at the age of 52. “These letters help reveal the significant impact Ross has had on diverse individuals and communities, helping them to express and feel better about themselves,” Mr. Jentsch said.

The paintings and other objects officially became part of the museum’s permanent collection on March 22, 2019. For now, the Smithsonian has no plans to display the paintings.

We don’t know. According to an analysis done 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.

But Mr. Ross also painted as an instructor, as well as for public events and for charity — so there may still be some paintings at large.

In the rare cases when a Bob Ross painting does surface, it depends who is buying. Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc., says she has seen authentic Ross paintings sell online for between $8,000 to $10,000 in recent years.

Right now there is one listed on eBay for $55,000:

Bob Ross Inc. will authenticate paintings that are sent to be inspected in person by Annette Kowalski, Joan Kowalski’s mother. (The company will not certify images that can be viewed only as scans or digital files.)

Annette Kowalski said that in addition to the brushwork and other signs of Mr. Ross’s hand, she looks for a specific detail in the quality of the signature:

If a painting is certified as an original Bob Ross, the owner will be provided with documentation attesting its authenticity.

Bob Ross Inc. is not open to visitors. Some of the original paintings are displayed at the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. In 2020 people will be able to visit the studio where the show was filmed, in Muncie, Ind.

In his 11 years of painting on television, there are only a few known instances in which Mr. Ross included a human figure. In “Morning Walk” (Series 17, Episode 11) two people stroll through the woods:

In “Campfire” (Series 3, Episode 10) a figure in a hat reclines against a tree:

According to Annette Kowalski, “Campfire” was among Mr. Ross’s least favorite paintings.

Though cabins often appear in Mr. Ross’s landscapes, they are rarely depicted with chimneys (another sign of people).

Originally Bob Ross and his wife, Jane, shared ownership of the company with Annette and Walt Kowalski, who had helped to finance Mr. Ross’s early career. Jane Ross died in 1992; when Bob died in 1995, the company was left to the Kowalskis alone.

Cricket.

The squirrel is named Bobette — a combination of Bob and Annette. Bobette appears in several episodes of Series 18, but this is only one of Bob’s many squirrels. Peapod appears in Series 22 and 23, while Peapod Jr. joins in Series 30 and 31.

Bob Ross did not always have a perm:

According to Annette Kowalski, Mr. Ross originally chose to perm his hair because it was cheaper than getting frequent haircuts.

Later, she said, he disliked the hairstyle but did not feel he could change it because it was depicted in the company logo:

William Alexander was the creator of the PBS show “The Magic of Oil Painting,” which aired on PBS from 1974 to 1982. In 1984, he symbolically handed over his brush to Bob in a marketing campaign.

They later had a falling out. In a 1991 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Alexander said “He betrayed me.” “I invented ‘wet on wet’” he continued. “I trained him, and he is copying me — what bothers me is not just that he betrayed me, but that he thinks he can do it better.”

In 1994, the talk show host Phil Donahue asked Mr. Ross to “say out loud your work will never hang in a museum.”

“Well, maybe it will,” Mr. Ross replied. “But probably not the Smithsonian.”

When asked a question about his legacy in 1991, Mr. Ross gave a similar answer:



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