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Found: All the happy little Bob Ross paintings

Sarah Stroll, executive assistant at Bob Ross, Inc., with a stack of Ross paintings on October, 15, 2018, in Herndon, Virginia.
Photo: Bill O’Leary (The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Before Bob Ross’ death in 1995, he had hosted the popular PBS series The Joy Of Painting for 11 years. For each episode - and there were over 400 of them, in total - he painted a picture step-by-step for his audience. Furthermore, each of those canvases were painted three times. We’re not great at math, but that still adds up to a lot of happy little landscapes.

Nevertheless, The New York Times discovered in this fascinating 10-minute video, if you wanted to buy a Bob Ross painting, you would have a difficult time finding any selections from this voluminous stock available for sale. Plenty of false Bob Rosses exist, but as the world’s greatest Bob Ross authenticator, his old painting student Annette Kowalski, explains to the Times, you can tell because the clouds aren’t fluffy enough, or there is any evidence of people, a Ross no-no. Annette’s daughter, Joan, now president of Bob Ross Inc., tells the Times, “A lot of the public, they think anything with a tree and a mountain must be a Bob Ross painting.”


So where all they all? Right at Bob Ross Inc. in Herndon, Virginia, in crates and boxes, mostly. The Bob Ross Inc. staff seems kind of taken aback when presented with the idea that they could make a huge profit by selling these original works. But as anyone who’s seen even one Joy Of Painting episode knows, mercenary materialism is not what Bob Ross was about.

Nevertheless, the continuously cheerful painter has seen a resurgence as of late, becoming a pop-culture cult hero. Now Bob Ross socks, toasters, and waffle makers exist, a development that Joan Kowalski says would have thrilled the painter. But a new development likely would have thrilled him even more: While you can’t buy a Bob Ross painting, you may eventually get to see some of his works at the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History, where the Times reports that some of his paintings will be featured alongside works by Julia Child and Fred Rogers, becoming part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. Which, as any Bob Ross fan can tell you, is exactly where they belong.

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Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.