Bob Ross’s First TV Artwork Fetches $10M Tag at Minneapolis Gallery

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Imagining Bob Ross’s reaction to one of his works being sold for close to ten million dollars is mind-boggling. Ross, the personable artist who touched millions through PBS programs, completing his appealing paintings in under thirty minutes, would have found it impossible to conceive such a price for his art.

The Minneapolis-based gallery, Modern Artifact, begs to differ as they have put a price tag of nearly $10 million on “A Walk in the Woods,” one of the pieces Ross created for his iconic TV series, “The Joy of Painting.” This painting has the singular honour of being the very first of over 400 paintings Ross crafted on-air.

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Gallery owner, Ryan Nelson, views “A Walk in the Woods” as Bob Ross’s “rookie card,” a fitting choice given it was birthed during the series’ grand debut aired on January 11th, 1983. Nelson, who developed a deep appreciation for art primarily due to Ross’s show during his formative years in a small town, is not in haste to sell the painting at its hefty price tag. Instead, he sees this as a golden chance to present the painting to wider audiences.

On that inaugural show featuring “A Walk in the Woods,” Ross maintained his iconic look, replete with a full beard, perm, and unbuttoned shirt. During this episode, Ross emphasized that painting was no high-flown pursuit. Critics and misconceptions may suggest one needs half a lifetime of education or to be blessed by Michelangelo at birth to paint a picture effectively. But Ross familiarly disproved this, proclaiming anyone and everyone is capable of creating a painting.

Ross, who passed away in 1995, showcased this liberating philosophy about art from 1983 to 1994 on his show. Utilizing this platform, he skillfully crafted and showcased idyllic visual narratives of mountainous landscapes, tranquil waterfalls, pastoral cabins, and mills -all produced with remarkable speed.

While none of Ross’s paintings, including “A Walk in the Woods,” could be mistaken as masterpieces, the popular consensus is that it’s irrelevant. According to Nelson, the value of this particular painting lies in its representation of “the people’s artist.”

After the inaugural filming of “The Joy of Painting” in Falls Creek, Virginia, Ross’s initial painting was auctioned to collect funds for the local PBS station’s operations. A volunteer from the station acquired the piece for an unknown amount and kept it for 39 years. Last year, she reached out to Nelson, experienced in buying and selling Ross’s works, to facilitate the sale of the painting.

Following the purchase, Nelson listed the painting with a jaw-dropping price yet “not for sale” tag of $9.85 million. Megan Hoffman, a publicist, stated despite the asking price being unparalleled to any previous Ross paintings’ sales figures, this painting is exceptional, and there is no urgency for a swift sale. The popularity and appeal of Ross have grown exponentially in recent years, with over 5.63 million subscribers to a YouTube channel dedicated to his show.

Hoffman elucidated, “Ryan would prefer to take it out, tour it around to museums and things like that so people can enjoy it and appreciate it,”. While he remains open to offers, there is no rush to part with “A Walk in the Woods.”