Bob Ross’s first television painting was completed in half an hour and will go on sale for about $10 million

Bob Ross's first television painting was completed in half an hour and will go on sale for about $10 million

Bob Ross was known for his humble painting style on his long-running show “The Joy of Painting,” but the painting he completed for his first episode in 1983 is now up for sale for nearly $10 million.

MINNEAPOLIS — What would Bob Ross think?

The artist who brought painting to the people, with his works completed for PBS viewers in less than a half-hour using a large brush, a putty knife and a lot of encouragement, certainly never imagined that one of his works would go on to sell for nearly $10 million.

But that’s the price the Minneapolis gallery is asking for “A Walk in the Woods,” the first of more than 400 paintings Ross produced live for his TV series “The Joy of Painting.”

“It’s the first season, the first episode of what we would call Bob Ross’s rookie card,” Modern Artifact gallery owner Ryan Nelson said of the work created for the series’ debut, which aired on January 11, 1983.

Nelson, who grew up in a small town, said he was introduced to art through Ross’s show and loves his paintings. He does not expect a quick sale given the high asking price, which he sees as an opportunity to expose the painting to a larger audience.

At the first show in which he painted “A Walk in the Woods,” Ross — sporting his beloved curly hair, full beard and unbuttoned shirt — emphasized that drawing need not be pretentious.

“We’ve avoided drawing for a long time because I think we’ve been told all our lives that you have to go to school half your life, and you probably have to have Michelangelo’s blessing at birth, in order to be able to paint a picture,” Ross said. “And here, we want to show you that this incorrect. That you can paint a picture.”

Ross, who died in 1995, hosted the show from 1983 until 1994. In each episode, he spoke directly to viewers, whom he encouraged to draw with him as he created perfect scenes of mountain-backed streams, waterfalls, cabins and rustic mills. It all happens very quickly.

None of Ross’s paintings, including “Walking in the Woods,” will be mistaken for masterpieces. But that wasn’t the point.

“What this piece represents is the people’s artist,” Nelson said. “This is not an organization telling you that Bob Ross is great. This is not a high-profile show telling you that Bob Ross is great. These are the audiences and populations of the world that say Bob Ross is great.”

The first season of “The Joy of Painting” was filmed in Falls Creek, Virginia, and the painting from Ross’s premiere was sold months later to raise money for the local PBS station. A volunteer at the station bought the painting for an undisclosed price and hung it in her home for 39 years until she contacted Nelson, who bought and sold more than 100 of Ross’s works.

Nelson bought the painting last year and then listed it at a “not for sale” price of $9.85 million, publicist Megan Hoffman said.

“Ryan likes to take it out and tour it in museums and things like that so people can enjoy it and appreciate it,” Hoffman said. “He will receive offers but he is in no rush to sell.”

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