Bob Ross (born Robert Norman Ross, 1942 – 1995)—host of the most successful art show in TV history, The Joy of Painting—is probably the most recognized painting instructor of all time. Ross, who passed away from lymphoma, became a pop culture icon during his lifetime and has only become more popular posthumously. His show aired from 1983 to 1994 on over forty PBS stations all over the world and continues to live on in reruns and internet videos.
His charming, soft-spoken enthusiasm inspired millions. Ross insisted anyone could paint and that there were no mistakes, only “happy accidents.” His cultural impact is obvious. Bob Ross-inspired painting workshops, internet challenges, cosplay costumes, online merchandise, and homages from giants like Deadpool and Bansky continue to crop up. The new Netflix documentary, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed by Joshua Rofé, examines Ross’ life and career, piecing together old photos, TV footage, and interviews with friends, family, and coworkers to give a sense of the man, his art, and his contested legacy.
Below are a few revelations from the show: