Robert Norman Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995) was an American painter, art instructor, and television host. He was the creator and host of The Joy of Painting, an instructional television program that aired from 1983 to 1994 on PBS in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. Ross subsequently became widely known via his posthumous internet presence.
Ross was married three times and had two children, a child he fathered from a relationship he had as a teenager, and a son, Robert Stephen "Steve" Ross, with his first wife, Vivian Ridge. Steve, also a talented painter, occasionally appeared on The Joy of Painting and became a Ross-certified instructor. Steve appeared on camera in the last episode of Season 1, in which he read a series of general "how-to" questions sent in by viewers during the season, and Bob answered them one at a time, technique by technique, until he had completed an entire painting.Ross and Ridge's marriage ended in divorce in 1977, allegedly due to Ross' infidelity; she died shortly after the divorce, leaving Steve Ross in Bob's custody, where the two grew particularly close. Ross and his second wife, Jane, had no children together and in 1992, Jane died of cancer. In 1995, two months before his death, Ross married for a third time, to Lynda Brown.Ross was very secretive about his life and had a great preference for privacy. Some of only a few interviews with his close-knit circle of friends and family can be found in the 2011 PBS documentary Bob Ross: The Happy Painter. Other conversations were destroyed as part of a legal settlement between Ross' family and Bob Ross Inc. Bob Ross Inc. is protective of his intellectual property and his privacy to this day.Ross believed in God and frequently referred to "God's creation" and wished his viewers "God bless you" during his series; however, he was not a member of any organized religion.
Ross was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, to Jack and Ollie Ross, a carpenter and a waitress respectively, and raised in Orlando, Florida. As an adolescent, Ross cared for injured animals, including armadillos, snakes, alligators and squirrels, one of which was later featured in several episodes of his television show. He had a half-brother, Jim, whom he mentioned in passing on his show. Ross dropped out of high school in the 9th grade. While working as a carpenter with his father, he lost part of his left index finger, which did not affect his ability to later hold a palette while painting.: 22