From 1983 to 1994, painter Bob Ross was a purveyor of happy little things. His Joy of Painting program was a PBS hit that endeared Ross to several generations, many of whom found his relaxed approach to art soothing.
Now, the first-ever painting he did for the show, titled A Walk in the Woods, has surfaced. If you’ve got $9.8 million, you can own it.
According to The Washington Post, the painting has been in the possession of a single owner for the past four decades—a volunteer at the PBS station in Virginia where the episode was produced. Ross donated the painting, which was auctioned off by the station. The volunteer likely paid around $100 or less for it.
The owner recently approached art dealer Modern Artifact in Minneapolis, which acquired the painting for an undisclosed sum and is now offering it to the public for $9.8 million.
The work—which, true to form for Ross, depicts a tree-lined pathway—was authenticated by Bob Ross Inc., the rights holder to Ross’s show. Analyzing the painting against the footage allowed the company to confirm it was not only a Ross original, but the exact painting used in the show. (Ross often painted three versions: one before taping, one during, and one for future reference.)
Most Ross originals wound up with Bob Ross Inc., which has made donations to the Smithsonian and sometimes loans out paintings for exhibit but otherwise keeps them stored at their Virginia headquarters. Occasionally, a piece will emerge for sale that was auctioned off by PBS or offered by Ross himself. In 2019, a painting sold by the artist during an art fair in Anchorage in 1980 for $60 surfaced. It was purchased by Modern Artifact for $10,000. That now sounds like a bargain.