Bob Ross’ Death: What To Know About The Painter’s Passing – Hollywood Life

Bob Ross’ Death: What To Know About Shocking Passing Of The Beloved American Painter

Bob Ross' life and legacy is the basis of a new Netflix doc, 'Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed.' Here's what to know about the painter's death.

Reading Time: 4 minutes
bob ross
View gallery
Image Credit: Everett Collection

American painter Bob Ross rose to prominence through his long-running PBS TV show The Joy of Painting, a half-hour instructional series that offered tips on becoming an artist as well as meaningful life advice. It ran between 1983 and 1994 for 31 seasons, becoming a cult favorite not just then but also now through syndication. The painter’s signature perm and denim jeans — not to mention, his love of “happy little trees” and teaching the masses how to paint them — made him an instantly recognizable figure in the pop culture zeitgeist up until his death in 1995 at the age of 52. Below is everything you should know about the painter and TV personality’s death.

When And How Did Bob Ross Die?

bob ross
Bob Ross (Everett Collection)

Bob died at the age of 52 on July 4, 1995 in New Smyrna Beach, Florida due to complications from lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. The Joy of Painting had been cancelled a year prior so that the painter and TV host could focus on his health, as he had been diagnosed with lymphoma during that time. Following his death, most of his oil paintings were reportedly donated to PBS stations or charities.

What Is Bob Ross’ Net Worth?

Following his death in 1995, Bob left behind a hefty estate said to have been worth $1.3 million. An estate of such a size will, of course, result in some infighting — and has. The late painter’s son Steve Ross went to court with his father’s original business partners Walter and Annette Kowalski, currently in control of Bob Ross, Inc, but lost the fight for his father’s intellectual rights and estate. The battle for the painter’s estate began a bit before his death, after Walter had sent Bob a fax called a “declaration of war” by The Daily Beast. The fax called for one major thing: “complete and total ownership over Bob Ross, his name, his likeness, and anything and everything he had ever touched or created.” The battle for the estate serves as the basis of the new Netflix documentary, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, out August 25.

How Much Are Bob Ross’ Paintings Worth?

Bob left behind some 30,000 oil paintings following his death. Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc. and daughter of Walter and Annette, previously told The New York Times back in 2019 that some authentic paintings by the famed artist have sold online for between $8,000 to $10,000 in recent years. Prices, as with other pieces of art, depend on provenance, consumer demand, and rareness. But getting your hands on an original Bob painting will be no easy feat, as most of the painter’s works are not even up for sale. Much of the pieces are housed at Bob Ross, Inc’s headquarters. Bob Ross, Inc. did donate some to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2019, but these pieces are not on exhibition.

What Is Bob Ross’ Legacy?

The late painter’s legacy is explored in great depth in the soon-to-be released Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed. Director Joshua Rofé told CNN on August 24 that he believes the narrative of the famed painter’s life is carefully curated by those who currently control his legacy. “The information that’s out about Bob, for the most part, is very much what’s put forth by Bob Ross Incorporated. They’re essentially the controllers of the Bob Ross name and image,” Joshua said. “Once we finally found people who were willing and brave enough to say their [peace], we started to find out so much more.” Annette and Walter’s daughter Joan recently told Vanity Fair that allegations about the estate battle in the doc are an “attempt to relitigate” issues already dealt with in a previous lawsuit, maintaining that the “artistic and cultural relevance” of Bob “would have been lost decades ago with his passing” were it not for Bob Ross Inc.

In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, Joshua reflected on what he learned about the painter while painting a portrait of his legacy for Netflix. “He was much livelier offscreen than he was onscreen,” the director said. “He was somebody who seemed to really relish being engaged in life in a way that was infused with a higher level of energetic charisma than you see on the show. He was just a guy who loved life and loved to be around people.”