Since his 1983 debut on The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross has become a cultural icon for generations of fans. While it seems that every conceivable piece of Bob Ross merchandise is available at the click of a button, his iconic paintings have been a mysterious rarity. Until now.
Perhaps the most sought-after piece for fans and art collectors alike, Bob Ross' first TV painting has become available at a price that's been called a "not-for-sale number", with plans to take it on tour to display for eager fans. (If you're looking to start your own painting journey, check out our guide on how to use oil paints, for some easy tips to get you started).
The piece titled 'A Walk in the Woods' has been put on the market by Minneapolis-based gallery Modern Artifact, who have given it a not-so-happy estimation of $9.8 million. Having distributed a handful of Ross' paintings before, the gallery added to its small collection, procuring the art piece from a woman who had won it at an auction, supporting the station where The Joy of Painting was filmed.
It's very rare to see Ross' paintings out in the wild, as many remain in the hands of Bob Ross Inc, who rarely (if ever) release any of Ross' original works. The company claims to have no interest in selling them to honour Ross' wish to not distribute his work for financial gain.
While on the surface, it seems that Modern Artifact may be defying Ross' wishes, the steep price tag appears to be more of a deterrent than an enticing steal for potential buyers. "It is hard to put a value on the piece given the movement, the popularity and the fact that this is the very first on-air painting on The Joy of Painting," says Ryan Nelson, owner of the gallery. "If someone were to make a seven-figure offer, we would, of course, consider that. Until then, we plan to tour this Bob Ross painting that started it all,” he adds.
"The Bob Ross hype is a rare glimmer of authenticity in a fine art market that is often tightly controlled and highly manipulated,” Nelson says. While we're excited to see such a formative piece of artwork escape the archives, our fingers are crossed that prospective buyers will want to keep this piece of history on display for everyone to enjoy.
If you're after some more news from the art world, check out O2's ad campaign that transformed rugby fans into classical works of art, or take a look at the controversial fine art competition winner who enlisted a little help from AI.