By AJ Willingham, CNN
(CNN) — It’s hard to quantify the value of painter and all-around cultural icon Bob Ross, but $9.85 million is a good start.
The very first on-air painting from the very first episode of Ross’ beloved series “The Joy of Painting” is looking for a new owner after being kept safe for decades by one of the show’s early volunteers.
“A Walk in the Woods” was painted live on-air in January of 1983, and typifies everything the public came to love about Ross and his art-positive mission. It depicts a placid woodland scene in shades of gold and blue, painted with Ross’ preferred “wet on wet” technique, with deceptively complex-looking brushstrokes and, of course, an abundance of happy little trees. In the lower lefthand corner, Ross’ signature stands out in red.
The work was acquired by Minneapolis-based art gallery Modern Artifact earlier this year. Before that, it was owned by a one-time volunteer at the Falls Church, Virginia PBS station where the first season of “The Joy of Painting” was aired. The volunteer bought it in November of 1983 at a station fundraising auction, just months after it was painted. It has been verified as authentic by Bob Ross Inc.
Modern Artifact owner Ryan Nelson said Ross’ work has seen increasing demand over the years.
“The driving force behind the increased demand for Bob Ross paintings seems to be collectors themselves,” Nelson said in a statement. “Nostalgia, social media and an increased interest by the general public in the personality behind the art have all contributed to his current popularity.”
The gallery is offering the painting at a price point of $9.85 million, but Nelson says it’s in no rush to sell.
“It’s a truly irreplicable, one-of-a-kind painting,” he said. “Ideally, we would like to share it with a museum or traveling exhibit to allow as many people as possible to view such an exciting work of art.”
“The Joy of Painting,” which aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994, has become a wholesome classic in league with fellow PBS show “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.” Even now, 40 years after it first aired, people still watch old episodes and paint along.
Ross himself also became an icon for his kind, positive instruction and his belief that anyone could make beautiful art.
“I think there’s an artist hidden in the bottom of every single one of us,” Ross says at the beginning of the first episode of “The Joy of Painting,” minutes before getting started on the work that now holds so much value for so many. “I hope you have your brush ready, and a dream in your heart.”
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