“I like to beat the brush”; Bob Ross (1942–1995) on The Joy of Painting (all images are courtesy of Bob Ross Inc.)

“We don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents,” is perhaps Bob Ross’s most famous mantra, one he repeated in various formulations throughout the 11-year run of The Joy of Paintinghis instructional TV program on PBS. More than two decades after his death, the popularity of the iconic painter, famous for his round, permed hair and quirky, endearing remarks, still hasn’t waned. In fact, it is gaining renewed interest.

Happy Accidents will be the title of a new exhibition of the iconic painter’s works, due to open on September 10 at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, Virginia. The exhibition will feature 24 original Ross paintings created on The Joy of Painting, the largest collection of Ross paintings to ever be displayed at a gallery. It will also be the first Bob Ross exhibition on the East Coast.

“That’s a crooked tree. We’ll send him to Washington.” — Bob Ross

Bob Ross, “Arctic Winter Day” (1993)

The Joy of Painting, which stopped airing in 1994, gained a second life after it went viral on Twitch in 2014 and on YouTube in 2015. But now, after years of memeification of his unique persona on the internet, Ross’s work is finally gaining some recognition by the art world establishment.

This past March, following a torrent of requests from Bob Ross fans, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art announced that it’s including a collection of the artist’s paintings, along with other items from The Joy of Painting (including the converted stepladder he used as an easel), in its permanent collection. Alas, the Smithsonian later said it had no plans to exhibit the new acquisitions. In April, Ross made his first museum debut when DePaul Art Museum in Chicago included four of his paintings in the exhibition New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival.

“You know me, I gotta put in a big tree.” — Bob Ross

Bob Ross, “Home Before Nightfall” (1993)

Earlier this month, a New York Times report on the whereabouts of over 1,000 paintings that Ross created as host of The Joy of Painting revealed that he had created three versions of each of his paintings. The first painting was made before the show, to be used as a reference. The second was made during the one-take taping of the show. The third was made after the show, to be included in instructional books. Ross, who passed away in 1995, once estimated that he produced nearly 30,000 paintings during his lifetime. A small collection of his works is on permanent display at the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

“Clouds are very, very free.” — Bob Ross

Bob Ross, “Sunset Aglow” (1993)

Along with the unprecedented display of Ross’s paintings, Happy Accidents will also feature three workshops with Bob Ross-certified instructor Sandra Hill. According to Washingtonian, there are over 3,000 such instructors in the United States and Canada. The Bob Ross Inc. website includes a list of thousands of other certified instructors around the world. The workshops will train participants in Ross’s wet-on-wet oil painting technique.

“Bob’s paintings haven’t been on display that often,” Sarah Strohl, executive assistant at Bob Ross Inc., told the Washingtonian in an interview. “This will be definitely the largest opportunity to come see them.” In other happy news to fans, the company announced that starting next year, people will be allowed to visit the studio in Muncie, Indiana, where The Joy of Painting was taped.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

2 replies on “The Charming Landscapes of Bob Ross Get a Solo Exhibition”

  1. According to the linked article, it’s actually the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, not American Art, that is acquiring Bob Ross material.

  2. Best news I’ve read in…YEARS. Thank you so much for this informative piece!

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