How did Bob Ross die? Revisiting the life of the painter as upcoming Netflix documentary looms large

Bob Ross in "The Joy of Painting" (Image via PBS)
Bob Ross in "The Joy of Painting" (Image via PBS)

On August 17, Netflix dropped a mysterious teaser trailer for the documentary film on Bob Ross, the American painter and TV host. It is titled Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed and will be directed by Joshua Rofé (of 2021's Sasquatch and 2019's Lorena fame).

Bob Ross, known for his charming demeanor, calm nature, and soothing voice, gained most of his fame posthumously after re-runs of his show The Joy of Painting became extremely popular on the internet, making him into a pop-culture icon.


The documentary by Netflix will drop on the platform on August 25 and explore the battle for his business empire after his death. The film's title refers to his business partners trying to snatch his part of the business after Bob Ross' death in 1995.

Furthermore, the "Happy Accidents" in the title refers to his famous quote from the show:

"We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents."

How did Bob Ross die?


In 1994, the then 51-year-old's PBS show The Joy of Painting was canceled as the artist was diagnosed with Lymphoma. According to The Daily Beast, Bob Ross was known for smoking during most of his adult life.

As per, smokers have a 40% higher risk of developing lymphatic cancer (Lymphoma).

The artist and TV show host died on July 4 (Tuesday) at 52. His death was followed by a massive dispute between his family and business partners.

Under the terms of his business, Bob Ross Inc., the death of any partner will result in that person's equity being equally divided amongst the remaining partners.


The Daily Beast report also states that Bob's son Steve recently sued Ross' partners' daughters, who currently own Bob Ross Inc., alleging illegal licensing of his father's pictures.

The article also states how Bob Ross wanted to leave business ownership to his son and half-brother.

The report states:

"Steve recalls many a time when Bob would slam the phone into the receiver before emerging from another room steaming-hot mad and ranting about how the Kowalskis [Ross' business partners] wanted to own his name and everything associated with it."

The documentary, releasing next week (August 25), is expected to shed more light on this aspect. The 35-second teaser also includes an unidentified voice saying:

"I've been wanting to get this story out for all these years."

This person could be Steve or Bob Ross' half-brother.


In recent years, Bob Ross has become very culturally relevant. The artist has been referenced and parodied several times in shows like Family Guy and the marketing of 2018's Deadpool 2.

Edited by Ravi Iyer