Bob Ross, the beloved artist known for making painting accessible and encouraging creativity, probably never imagined one of his works would be listed for nearly $10 million. Yet, that’s the asking price at a Minneapolis gallery for “A Walk in the Woods,” the inaugural painting from Ross’s TV series “The Joy of Painting.”
Ryan Nelson, owner of the Modern Artifact gallery, referred to it as the “rookie card for Bob Ross,” created during the show’s debut on January 11, 1983. Nelson, introduced to art through Ross’s show in his small-town upbringing, has a deep appreciation for Ross’s paintings. Although he anticipates a longer sales process due to the high price, he views it as an opportunity to showcase the painting to a wider audience.
In the first episode, Ross, with his distinctive perm and relaxed demeanor, emphasized that painting need not be pretentious. He debunked the notion that one needed extensive formal training to create art, stating, “And here, we want to show you that that’s not true. That you can paint a picture.”
Ross, who passed away in 1995, hosted the show from 1983 to 1994. In each episode, he engaged directly with viewers, encouraging them to paint along as he swiftly crafted serene scenes of streams, mountains, waterfalls, and rustic dwellings.
None of Ross’s paintings, including “A Walk in the Woods,” would be considered masterpieces. But that wasn’t their purpose. Ryan Nelson emphasized the significance of this piece as a representation of the artist of the people. It’s not an institution or high-brow gallery declaring Ross’s greatness; it’s the collective voice of the people around the world acknowledging Bob Ross’s significance.
The first season of “The Joy of Painting” was filmed in Falls Creek, Virginia, and the painting from Ross’s debut show was sold a few months later to raise funds for the local PBS station. After residing in a volunteer’s home for nearly four decades, the painting eventually found its way to Ryan Nelson, who set a “not for sale” price of $9.85 million.
While this asking price surpasses that of any other Ross painting, “A Walk in the Woods” is deemed exceptional. Nelson is in no rush to sell it and is open to touring it to museums for public enjoyment and appreciation. Bob Ross’s popularity has seen a surge in recent years, evident in the 5.63 million subscribers to a YouTube channel featuring his shows.