Bob Ross | Happy Painting

19.11.20 - 05.09.21
Bob Ross smiling and standing before painting

Happy news! Museum MORE is the first museum in the world to hold a solo exhibition of the fabulous painting coach and cult icon who remains immensely popular to this day. Since 1983, millions of people have watched his TV series The Joy of Painting, where in the 26 hypnotic minutes of every episode, Bob created a complete landscape. Creative director Ype Koopmans: ”Bob Ross is an amazing phenomenon in popular culture. A disarmingly good-natured promoter of the joy of painting, who in his own unique and approachable way takes away the fear of making art and looking at art”.

The exhibition in Museum MORE is curated in collaboration with Bob Ross Inc and will show around 40 highlights from Bob’s TV oeuvre, including of course almighty mountains, happy little trees and fluffy clouds. In the words of Bob Ross himself: Let’s have some fun!

© Bob Ross Inc

No mistakes, just happy accidents

Everything always turns out well in the world of Bob Ross, which explains why this American art instructor is as popular as ever. His motto: everyone can paint! Even if you’ve never held a brush before. In 381 episodes, Bob painted snowy mountains, pointy pines, downy deciduous trees, frothy waterfalls, wooded paths and mirrored lakes. Bathed in golden spring light or under a cold winter sun. Every season featured in his work and nature formed his greatest source of inspiration.

The Joy of Painting

Every season featured in his work and nature formed his greatest source of inspiration. With just two exceptions, people were noticeably absent in his work. He didn’t paint flowers or portraits: for this he invited guest artists for 22 of the 403 episodes he broadcast in total. His television series, which originally ran from 1983 to 1994, is still repeated all over the world and his circle of fans continues to grow.

Wet on wet

Experiencing Bob Ross – because it is a real experience – evidently has a timeless appeal. There is something magical about the sudden emergence of a landscape painted in oil. In thirty hypnotising minutes, he demonstrates the effects you can create on canvas using wet-on-wet, also known in the art world as alla prima. This painting technique, which requires the painter to work very fast before the paint has a chance to dry, was also used by such artists as Velázquez, Rembrandt and Frans Hals. However, Bob Ross never purported to be an artistic genius: “It’s not traditional art, it’s not fine art. And I am not trying to tell anybody it is.” Bob’s goal in life was for people to get pleasure from painting.

S2E8 | Bob Ross | Reflections | © Bob Ross Inc (view on YouTube)

S26E7 | Bob Ross | Snow Birches | © Bob Ross Inc (view on YouTube)

You can make anything happen on the canvas

But he achieved far more. From his simple yet intimate TV studio, Bob speaks to you personally, with a liberating belief in talent as something you can develop. And that goes beyond painting, beyond Bob’s trusted tubes with colours such as Van Dyke Brown, Titanium White or Sap Green. His reassuring encouragement “You can do anything you want. This is your world” has a therapeutic effect on many of his fans. Just start. Even if you’re afraid you’ll fail. “Ever make mistakes in life? Let’s make them birds. Yeah, they’re birds now.” To err is human. Forgive yourself. Let your mistakes fly away. On a canvas, or out of your life. “Just let it happen, don’t fight it.”

Mindfulness avant-la-lettre

With his calm, warm voice, Bob Ross was a mindfulness guru avant la lettre, and is now the King of Chill for ASMR YouTubers who rock their watchers to sleep with their whisperings and gentle sounds. Bob offers a refuge in turbulent times. But he also had a sense of humour, and often went along with spoofs such as commercials for the music channel MTV. And those close to him say he would have had a lot of fun with today’s memes. His posthumous appearances include the comic cartoon series Family Guy and superhero film Deadpool 2.

S21E6 | Bob Ross | Mountain Rhapsody | © Bob Ross Inc (view on YouTube)

This year the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. acquired a number of Bob Ross paintings as well as letters from his fans, donated by Bob Ross Inc, in order to preserve this popular cultural heritage. Bob died from lymphoma in 1995 at just 52 years old.

This exhibition in Museum MORE in Gorssel is produced in collaboration with the American Bob Ross Inc. Bob Ross Incorporated is the company set up by Bob Ross together with his wife Jane, and Annette and Walter Kowalski.

All broadcasts of the TV series The Joy of Painting can also be seen on YouTube.