Bob Ross, the beloved painter who headlined the PBS series The Joy of Painting for 11 years and nearly 400 episodes, left behind an astounding 1,143 paintings after his death in 1995. Now, nearly 25 years later, the late painter’s collection of “happy little” paintings have been found, but they probably won’t ever land in art dealer’s possession.
Ross, who painted three of the same painting per episode on the PBS series, left his massive collection of oil landscapes under the care of his longtime business partner and painting collaborator, Annette Kowalski, and her daughter Joan. The paintings are stored at the Bob Ross Inc. headquarters in Virginia, the New York Times reports.
While some of Ross’ paintings have been donated to the Smithsonian to be part of a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of American History, Kowalski told the Times she has no intention of selling any of her late partner’s paintings because that “wasn’t really Bob’s thing.”
“It actually has never really occurred to us. We’ve never really talked about it.”
Annette Kowalski, who first met Bob Ross at a painting class in the early 1980s, admitted that when she first met the soothing-voiced artist she was so “mesmerized” by him that she couldn’t even paint. Instead, she followed him around the room and watched as he instructed other students. Kowalski later convinced the still-unknown painter to teach a class in Northern Virginia, and when they advertised for the class in a television commercial, the station manager saw Ross as a star.
In an interview with Five Thirty-Eight, Kowalski revealed that Ross was just “doing what he enjoyed doing and interacting with people” and he didn’t care about money at all.
“When I first met Bob and we started this company in D.C., it was my company, Bob was working for me; I was paying Bob. Bob said to me, “Just do what makes you happy, and the money will come.” And that was pretty much his philosophy. We never thought about money. There wasn’t anything we did that was for money. It was really just to make people happy.”
Kowalski also noted that Ross never wanted to paint people and went so far as to avoid painting chimneys on building and cabins because “chimneys represented people, and he didn’t want any sign of a person in his paintings.”
Kowalski revealed that of the thousands of painting Ross made—and there were many more than the 1,143 used on The Joy of Painting— she could only recall two times he painted people: One painting of a man by a campfire and another of two people walking through the woods.
Sadly, Bob Ross died on July 4, 1995 at the age of 52 from lymphoma. But the artist was well aware that his paintings would live on even after his death. A post on the late artist’s official Twitter page quoted Ross as once saying, “We know that paintings last –if you take care of ’em, shoot, they can last hundreds of years.”