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How Much Is a Bob Ross Painting Worth? (List of the Most Expensive Bob Ross Paintings)

Ever wondered how much is a Bob Ross painting worth? You’re not alone.

In this post we breakdown some of the best Bob Ross paintings of all time, how much they have sold for, as well as our top recommended episodes to follow along with if you are just getting into painting.

Wonder how he compares to some of the most expensive paintings ever sold? Check out our post here

Key Takeaways on Bob Ross Paintings

  • The price of Bob Ross paintings vary, often selling between $15,000 and $95,000, with ‘Row Boat on the Beach’ being the most expensive at $95,000.
  • Modern Artifact gallery in Minneapolis has actually listed Ross’s first painting for his TV show, “A Walk in The Woods,” for $9.85 million – which would be the highest amount one of his paintings ever sold for
  • Ross was known for using wet-on-wet technique (alla prima) applying fresh paint over wet layers, as well as his focus on landscapes, limited color palette, and creating realistic yet dreamlike scenes that balanced light and shadow
  • To create your own Bob Ross style painting you’ll need:
    • Oil Paints: A selection of essential colors, including earth tones and specific shades like Phthalo Blue and Titanium White.
    • Brushes and Palette Knife: Natural bristle brushes for textures and a palette knife for details.
    • Canvas: A high-quality, double-primed canvas.
    • Easel and Palette: For holding and mixing paints.
    • Reference Photo (optional): to base your painting off of
    • Odorless Thinner: For cleaning and thinning paints.
  • See the second table in this post for best episodes for beginners to watch and try to replicate

Below is a table of the most expensive Bob Ross paintings ever sold:

RankTitleYearPrice (USD)
1Row Boat on the Beach1992$95,000
2(“Northern Lights”) Original Signed 12×16 19801980$88,000
3Gold Pan Signed1971$69,000
4Misty Waterfall1980$19,950
5The Old Water Mill1984$19,500
6Meadow Lake1982$18,950
7Winter Moon1983$17,950
8Towering Peaks1980$17,950
9Mountain Waterfall1980$14,959

How Much Is a Bob Ross Painting Worth?

Ross’s paintings are rare finds due to the scarcity of his works on the market. Typically, his pieces have fetched between $10,000 and $95,000, with some exceptions going beyond six figures considering current inflation rates.

Note that these prices are influenced by factors such as condition, provenance, and artwork size, not to mention the desire of collectors to own a piece of Ross’s legacy.

What is the Most Expensive Bob Ross Painting Ever?

The most expensive Bob Ross painting sold to date is “Row Boat on the Beach.” (Created during episode 10 of the 24th season of ‘The Joy of Painting’) it was sold for a staggering $95,000.

While most would assume his mountain or forest pieces would be the most expensive Bob Ross painting. However, this piece showcases a serene beach scene, a lone rowboat, rippling tides, floating clouds, and radiant sunny weather.

Coming up second on the list is an an untitled original depicting the Alaskan Northern Lights (shown below). This painting sold at a whopping $88,000 in 1980.

What Makes a Bob Ross Painting Expensive?

Several factors contribute to making a Bob Ross painting expensive. Originality is critical, as Ross’s unique style and technique are iconic in Western art history.

Here are some factors that make a Bob Ross painting expensive:

  1. Cultural and Historical Significance: Bob Ross has become a cultural icon, known for his calming presence and “The Joy of Painting” TV series.
  2. Scarcity: Despite having created thousands of paintings, the actual number of Bob Ross originals available on the market is relatively low (scarcity drives up the value of his paintings)
  3. Popularity and Nostalgia: Ross’s popularity, fueled by the nostalgic appeal of his TV show and the recent resurgence of interest in his work, significantly boosts the demand and consequently the value of his paintings.
  4. Emotional Connection: Many people have a deep emotional connection with Ross’s work. His soothing approach to teaching and the serene nature of his paintings evoke feelings of tranquility and happiness, making them highly desirable.
  5. Unique Style: Ross’s distinctive “wet-on-wet” technique and his focus on peaceful, natural landscapes make his paintings stand out. His style is easily recognizable and often imitated but never duplicated, adding to the value of his original works.
  6. Quality and Condition: Like any artwork, the physical condition and quality of a Bob Ross painting affect its value. Well-preserved pieces are typically more valuable.
  7. Appearance in “The Joy of Painting”: Paintings that were featured in episodes of “The Joy of Painting” are particularly valuable due to their direct connection with the show and the public’s familiarity with them.

It’s important to remember that the monetary value of artwork is often impacted by its provenance or historical significance. The story behind the painting and the artist’s reputation can significantly influence a painting’s worth. In Ross’s case, his widespread popularity and the scarcity of his works up for sale likely bolstered the value of his artwork.

Best Bob Ross Paintings and Episodes for Beginners to Try to Replicate

If you’re a novice painter looking to practice and progress, Bob Ross’s work provides an excellent template. Check out our table and links below as well as the following descriptions on the best places to start:

RankSeason/Episode/TitleReason for Recommendation
1Special/Grandeur of SummerExtra time for detailed explanations
2S07E11/Grey WinterSimple composition and limited colors
3S05E6/Ocean SunriseEasy beginner painting, adaptable to sunset
4S14E01/Distant MountainsSimple composition, mountain and foliage techniques
5S02E04/Shades of GreyTeaches grayscale and depth
6S01E13/Q&A EpisodeValuable insights and troubleshooting
7S06E10/Country LifeModerate complexity, good for learning
8S06E07/Arctic BeautyHigher complexity for a challenge
9S21E03/Royal MajestyAdvanced techniques and detailed work

*In “Grandeur of Summer” Bob Ross goes over painting tools and how to setup a white canvas (check between the 4 and 10 minute marks)

First, in “Grandeur of Summer” (Season 1, Episode 4), Ross paints a simplistic yet beautiful forest scene. The key elements in this painting are towering trees, a serene lake, and a clear blue sky. You’ll learn about perspective and highlighting as you strive to depict the stately trees, and how to blend colors while painting reflections on the water’s surface.

Some other episodes worth mentioning are:

  • “Final Reflections” (Season 2, Episode 13) is a remarkable piece for practicing variations of a single color.
  • “Island in the Wilderness” (Season 29, Episode 1), extensively practices the “wet-on-wet” technique.

How Does Bob Ross Compare to Other Famous Artists? (What Did Art Critics Think of His Work?)

In the realm of canvas painting, Bob Ross carved a persona that diverged significantly from other celebrated artists. His soft-spoken personality, paired with his approachability and the didactic nature of his series, won him much love and recognition among the masses. Art critics, however, had a different perspective.

Mainstream art criticism tends not to place Ross’s work in high esteem. Critics often argue that his paintings lack the complexity, depth, and challenging narratives seen in the works of renowned classical artists.

For instance, compared to Vincent Van Gough’s iconic “Starry Night”, Ross’s work lacks complex color play, emotion-evoking strokes, and layers of interpretation. His work was even dismissed as “fast food” art by some critics who felt it focused more on speed and easy replication rather than intricate detailing.

Read More: How Much Is Van Gogh’s Starry Night worth?

Despite these criticisms, it’s important to note that Ross’s overarching motive was different. He aimed to foster a love for painting and make it accessible to everyone. His work wasn’t intended to challenge norms or provoke deep thought but to soothe, entertain, and encourage creativity.

Was Bob Ross Actually a Good Painter?

When discussing the quality of Bob Ross’s work, one should first keep in mind that the term ‘good’ is subjective and depends on individual tastes.

However, it’s undeniable that Ross mastered the alla prima or ‘wet-on-wet’ painting technique, popularized by former mentor Bill Alexander, where layers of wet paint are applied to previous layers of wet paint.

Again it’s worth noting that while some may argue Ross’s works lack profound artistic depth, his focus was more on the process of painting, as opposed to the final product itself. Ross sought to democratize art, insisting that everyone could paint with the right tools and a bit of direction.

What Did Some Critics Think of Bob Ross?

Bob Ross, while an immensely loved figure, did have critics within the art world.

Some dismissed his show as a mere performance of painting rather than a serious art tutorial. They reasoned that while Ross’s style was enjoyable to watch, it didn’t necessarily cultivate a solid understanding of painting fundamentals.

Here are some key criticisms that some have mentioned:

  1. Performance Over Pedagogy: Ross’s show was seen by some as more performance art than a serious art tutorial, focusing more on entertainment than on teaching the fundamentals of painting.
  2. Repetitive Elements: Critics noted his repetitive use of elements like ‘happy little trees’ and ‘fluffy clouds,’ arguing this lacked the sophistication of traditional art forms.
  3. Commercialization Concerns: His work was sometimes viewed as overly commercial, especially given its integration with a TV show and the sale of branded art supplies.
  4. Kitschy, Predictable Style: Ross’s paintings were often seen as having a kitschy quality, using similar motifs and techniques without pushing creative boundaries.
  5. Simplifying Art’s Complexity: His approach was critiqued for oversimplifying the complexities of art, potentially giving an unrealistic impression of the artistic process.
  6. Lack of Artistic Evolution: Critics observed little evolution in Ross’s style and subject matter, suggesting a lack of artistic growth or exploration.
  7. Formulaic Approach: His predictable, step-by-step method of painting was seen as lacking the spontaneity and experimentation found in fine art.
  8. Limited Emotional Range: While pleasant and serene, Ross’s works were sometimes said to lack the emotional depth and intellectual engagement associated with more complex art.
  9. Absence of Formal Recognition: Despite his popularity, Ross rarely received formal recognition from the traditional art world.
  10. Questionable Depth and Innovation: Some felt that his paintings, while technically proficient, did not contribute significantly to the broader discourse of contemporary art.

However, one advantage to this criticism is that it further solidified Ross as a figure for the people, a symbol of art’s accessibility. Ross never claimed to be a profound artist, instead prided himself on his ability to incite joy and creative expression among his viewers.

Brief Bio of Bob Ross

Bob Ross, born in 1942, was an iconic American painter and television host. Known for his idyllic landscapes and soft-spoken demeanor, Ross dedicated his life to sharing the joy of painting with countless aspiring artists worldwide. Although he began his career in the US Air Force, his passion for painting took precedence and led him to create the widely beloved program, The Joy of Painting.

During his time stationed in Alaska, Ross found solace in the beauty of the landscapes around him. The stark contrast between the white snow-covered mountains and the deep green wilderness ignited his inherent affinity for nature’s splendor, fueling his long and prolific painting career.

Although Ross passed away in 1995, his legacy endures, largely carried forward by Bob Ross Inc., a company he co-founded. Today, Ross’s timeless masterpieces and ‘wet-on-wet’ painting technique continue to inspire budding artists across the globe, proving that his impact is very much alive in the world of art.

What Was Bob Ross’s Cause of Death?

Bob Ross died on July 4th, 1995. His cause of death was attributed to lymphoma, which is a type of cancer affecting the immune system. His diagnosis only came to light posthumously since Ross was a private person who kept his health affairs away from public scrutiny while he dealt with the disease.

Before his death, Ross emphasized that he would like his work to continue touching people. Today, his series continues to air around the world and his YouTube channel is a favorite source of inspiration, relaxation, and art instruction, leaving his influence undiminished decades after his untimely demise.

What Was Bob Ross’s Final Painting?

The final painting Bob Ross completed for his television series “The Joy of Painting,” was called “Bridge to Autumn.” This painting is a captivating landscape featuring serene woods in autumn colors, gently flowing water, and two charming little bridges. This painting was created during the 31st season of the show, encapsulating all the hallmarks of Ross’s style.

What Kind of Style Did Bob Ross Paint With?

Bob Ross had an unconventional and distinctly recognizable style that made him a beloved figure in the art world. The “wet-on-wet” technique, or alla prima, was Ross’s favorite method, a strategy dating back to the Renaissance.

The core principle entails the application of fresh paint over previous layers of wet paint instead of waiting for each layer to dry fully. Of note, Ross’ style was heavily influenced by his mentor, Bill Alexander, who introduced him to wet-on-wet oil painting.

Ross exhibited an immense fondness for painting landscapes, incorporating scenic elements such as mountain ranges, calm waters, and substantial trees commonly known as “happy trees”. These landscape paintings often depicted surreal and idyllic settings, veering from impressive alpine scenery to serene beach vistas. Indeed, he had an uncanny knack for bringing calm, serene nature scenes to life communicating a harmonious balance between tranquility and vibrancy.

One key characteristic of Ross’s artistry was his purposeful lack of human presence in his paintings. The landscapes he created were often devoid of people, arguably to heighten the sense of oneness with nature and to invite viewers into a peaceful, tranquil, and untouched world.

What Do You Need to Paint Like Bob Ross?

Emulating Bob Ross’s distinctive style requires some essential tools and materials. For starters, you need quality oil paints. Ross typically used a limited palette, incorporating mainly warm and cool variants of each primary color, along with some secondary and tertiary colors.

For his landscapes, earth tones and specific color shades such as Phthalo Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, and Titanium White were often employed.

Here is a larger list of supplies to consider:

  1. Oil Paints: A selection of essential colors including:
    • Phthalo Blue
    • Sap Green
    • Van Dyke Brown
    • Dark Sienna
    • Yellow Ochre
    • Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue
    • Alizarin Crimson
    • Titanium White
    • (Less frequently used colors like Phthalo Green, Indian Yellow, Burnt Umber, Black, Bright Red, etc.)
  2. Brushes: Various types, primarily natural bristle brushes:
    • 2″ Flat Brush (for broad strokes and blending)
    • 1″ Flat Brush (for smaller areas and details)
    • Fan Brush (for textures like grass and trees)
    • Script Liner Brush (for fine lines and details)
    • Round Brush (larger size, for versatility)
    • Filbert Brush (rarely used, for specific effects)
  3. Palette Knife: For creating mountains and adding texture.
  4. Canvas: Preferably an 18″x24″ stretched, double-primed canvas, though similar aspect ratios work too.
  5. Odorless Mineral Spirits: For thinning paint and cleaning brushes.
  6. Palette: For mixing paints (paper plates can work as a substitute).
  7. Liquid White/Black/Clear: These mediums are used to prepare the canvas and facilitate the wet-on-wet technique.
  8. Black and White Gesso: For preparing canvases, especially for black canvas paintings.
  9. Linseed Oil: Useful as a medium for making the paint more fluid.
  10. Basic Cleaning Supplies:
    • Bucket or Trash Can (for cleaning brushes)
    • Wire Mesh (for agitating paint off the brushes)
    • Paper Towels (for wiping brushes and spills)
    • Drop Cloth (to protect your workspace)
    • Old Clothes (to avoid getting paint on your good clothes)

Quality brushes make the world of difference, and Ross had his favorites. His toolset primarily featured two types of brushes: natural bristle brushes for creating things like clouds, bushes, and trees, and a palette knife for creating mountains and adding detail to trees. Brushes of varying sizes, including a 2-inch brush and a 1-inch brush, would be used for blending and smoothing out colors.

Who Are Some Similar Artists?

One might wonder whether there are artists similar to Bob Ross, with his unique blend of talent, congeniality, and serenity. Let’s explore some artists who share similar traits and styles with him.

Firstly, William Alexander, Ross’s personal mentor, was an artist much like him. Known for his “Magic of Oil Painting” TV show (image shown above), he exemplified the “wet-on-wet” technique which Ross would soon adopt and popularize. However, Alexander’s style echoed a rather heavy European influence, employing bolder strokes and more vivid colors, subtly distinct from Ross’s more delicate approach.

Another name that merits mentioning is Thomas Kinkade, who, like Ross, had a passion for capturing nature’s tranquility on canvas. Kinkade’s works often feature whimsical cottages nestled amidst beautiful landscapes, bathed in soft, evocative light. Though his style exudes a higher degree of detail and precision, it still conveys the same sense of calm that Ross delivers.

Everett’s Cottage by Thomas Kinkade

Lastly, we find Joy of Painting guest and Ross’s student, Steve Ross. Steve, Bob’s son, has made a name for himself in the art world, following his father’s legacy in style, technique, and TV persona. From his father, he also adopted the wet-on-wet technique while offering his twist to this artistic approach.

Photo of Steve Ross from his Youtube Channel posted August 2022

Related Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Value of a Bob Ross Original Painting?

Generally speaking, the range of Bob Ross paintings varies significantly, with prices often simmering between $15,000 to the sky-high amount of $95,000. On top of that, the fact that Ross’s TV show produced over 1,000 paintings all signed with his charismatic signature surely does add an intrinsic value to each of his works.

Where Can You Find Bob Ross Paintings for Sale?

Hundreds of Ross’s paintings are owned by Bob Ross Inc., which are seldom put up for sale, making them a rare treasure. In certain situations, Bob Ross originals can surface through unorthodox channels like eBay or individual art collectors deciding to sell their pieces. Following art auctions and keeping in touch with galleries may also help to get rare sightings of Ross’s works up for sale.

Leading auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, art platforms such as Artnet and Artsy, or specialized websites dealing in fine art sales can occasionally list original Bob Ross paintings. It’s wise to keep an eye on such platforms for any potential sales. Some of his paintings even have been found in thrift stores or garage sales by unsuspecting shoppers.

Another noteworthy place to explore is Modern Artifact, an art gallery in Minneapolis, although their association with Ross’s work has lately sparked controversy. Although buyers should be aware that Bob Ross Inc. never authenticates paintings, it is always advised to ensure purchases are coming from reputable sellers to avoid falling victim to counterfeit art scams.

Why Are Original Bob Ross Paintings Rare?

While Ross was incredibly prolific, producing an estimated 30,000 paintings over his lifetime, original Ross paintings are surprisingly scarce. The rarity of his paintings can primarily be attributed to the fact that Ross never intended to commercialize most of his artwork.

Ross painted most of his artwork for his television program, “The Joy of Painting,” and many of these paintings were donated to PBS stations to raise funds. As a result, these paintings are scattered all over the United States, making locating and acquiring them a challenging proposition.

In addition to this, Bob Ross Inc., the company co-founded by Ross and Annette Kowalski, is known to own hundreds of Ross’s original paintings. These paintings are rarely ever sold, further adding to the scarcity and consequently the high price of his original works that do manage to reach the market.

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