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William "Bill" Alexander is Destined for Obscurity. Sorry Bill.

The author met Bill Alexander at age sixteen in 1966, knew him like a father, delivered his eulogy and executed his last will and testament.

It is the way of the world

You knew, didn't you Bill?

You knew, didn't you Bill?

I Didn't Ask the Right Questions

In my quest to restore William "Bill" Alexander's rightful place in art or cultural history as the person who first unleased and introduced an age-old painting technique to a waiting American public via television broadcasting early in the 1970's, I encountered a number of head scratchers.

A Virtual Visit to the National Museum of American History

It's pretty common knowledge The Smithsonian is like The Louvre. If it's important historically or culturally, you stand a good chance of eyeballing it there in some format.

Since Bill Alexander was the first on the PBS Television screen in 1974, won an Emmy as the painter/host of "the Magic of Oil Painting" in 1980 and continued production until 1982 as the host, I thought I might "discover" something.

What I found was ultimately disappointing for William "Bill" Alexander and people like myself who are trying to restore his legacy.

If you conduct a search of William "Bill" Alexander or Bill Alexander at The Smithsonian and then the National Museum of American History, a division of, this TV painter, Bill Alexander does not exist.

However, if you search the same sites for Bob Ross, I think even you will be astonished.

The Smithsonian is now in possession of four Bob Ross original paintings graciously donated by Bob Ross Inc.

Step Into Bob Ross' Studio With This New, Interactive Experience | Smart News| Smithsonian Magazine

While these works are not yet on display, the fact The Smithsonian has accepted them is big on two levels. One, they are acknowledging Bob Ross, the individual, is historically and culturally important. Two, nobody accepts donations of "anything" important unless they are willing to bear the costs of permanent preservation.

And then...

At the National Museum of American History, I found thirty-nine items associated with Bob Ross, which is mostly memorabilia, like an easel or palette knife. At the top of the catalogue list was a "Bob Ross Das Ausmalbuch". A colouring book produced in Germany in 2017. Isn't it ironic Bill Alexander is of German birth and Germany has never heard of him.

Search | Smithsonian Institution (

The common thread for getting in the face of The Smithsonian and the National Museum is Bob Ross Inc., not Bob Ross. Quite simply, the owners of that corporation are exceptional brand marketers.

Try and Find Bill Alexander's Name

  • List of American artists 1900 and after - Wikipedia
    This is a list by date of birth of historically recognized American fine artists known for the creation of artworks that are primarily visual in nature, including traditional media such as painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking...

Who Makes These Lists?

To help you in your search, Bob Ross was born in 1942, Bill Alexander in 1915.

Scroll to Continue

I found Bob Ross easily but couldn't find "the other guy". It is entirely possible I overlooked Bill's name in the search, but the omission is consistent with other findings.

A Dagger in the Heart

Who invented the wet-on-wet oil painting technique?

The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia's history of Alla Prima or wet-on-wet oil painting technique:

Wet-on-wet painting has been practiced alongside other techniques since the development of oil painting and was used by several of the major Early Netherlandish painters in parts of their pictures, such as Jan van Eyck in the Arnolfini portrait, and Rogier van der Weyden.[4]

Since the mid-19th century, the use of commercially produced paints in small collapsible tubes has facilitated an easily accessible variety of colors to be used for rapid and on-the-spot painting. Impressionists such as Claude Monet, post-Impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh, realists such as John Singer Sargent and Robert Henri and George Bellows, Expressionists such as Chaïm Soutine, and the Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning have in different ways employed this technique, and it is still heavily used by both figurative and non-figurative fine artists.[5] Artist Bob Ross employed the technique for his show The Joy of Painting in order to produce complete pieces in real time within a single episode.

Note the reference to Bob Ross.

And the coup de gras, literally translated to "Blow of Mercy".

Ask your internet search engine "Who Invented the wet-on-wet oil painting technique?"

2,130,000,000 (2.13 billion) search results from five sources came up with BOB ROSS!

See what I mean about great brand management?

If I was Bob Ross Inc. I wouldn't do a thing to change that perception. Would you?

When I want to blow my nose, I don't reach for a facial tissue, I reach for a Kleenex, even though the decorative box on my table says Scotties. (Kimberly-Clark did in fact introduce Kleenex brand facial tissues to the marketplace first in 1924. Thus importance of getting and maintaining a leadership position. Bill Alexander's leadership position was lost when the CEO of the then major player marketing that brand died and the company fell into ruins.

Bob Ross Inc. took a leadership position in the business of marketing art around the world while those in the Alexander art business world seemed happy to take a sleepy "happy buck" position in the market, like a mom-and-pop grocery store. Happy just to be. Product and service demand was clearly there, and Bob Ross Inc. jumped in to fill the void.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

About C $1,600.00, plus shipping

About C $1,600.00, plus shipping

Bob Ross Original Art Values? No Alexander in Artsy

  • Artsy
    Artsy is the world’s largest online art marketplace. Browse over 1 million artworks by iconic and emerging artists from 4000+ galleries and top auction houses.

Difficulty in Valuing Art

Most things we buy, usually tangible, have some economic equation related to a person's needs. As in, I need gas to get to work to make money to pay for the gas. Where can I get the cheapest gas?

Intangibles, like instruction, are a great deal more difficult to value, even for the greatest instructor in the world. Ultimately things like services get valued in context with time. If Eric Clapton charged for guitar lessons, I am sure he would charge considerably more than the guy down the street.

When it comes to intangibles, like art, generally, I have found it is worth what anyone is willing to pay for it unless a market has been established. A market is established once someone actually makes a purchase with real money. For example, if I just paid $12/share of ABC company, then shares in ABC company are worth $12.00 until someone pays more or less.

The laws of supply and demand will always apply to everything.

I have no real way of knowing, but I don't think "W. Alexander" original oils ever ranged beyond $1,000 to $2,000. There also probably thousands of Alexander originals out there.

Clearly, it is very easy to buy an Alexander. Supply is high and demand low.

Try and buy a Bob Ross original. It is very hard despite him reportedly producing 30,000 original paintings.

Again, I have no idea of what Bob Ross sold his painting for and to whom. But that $10,000 to $100,000 range clearly demonstrates high demand and low supply.

But, you can buy an original oil painting "in the style" of Bob Ross for about $250.00. I also saw a private individual try to sell an Alexander original for $250.00 on the internet.

Vincent Van Gogh died in abject poverty as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot. Recognition for Van Gogh came after his death and before radio, television and the internet.

Note Van Gogh was among those artists who incorporated "alla prima" or wet-on-wet technique in their works.

Portrait of Dr Gachet

The Deal: Sold on May 15,1990 by Siegfried Kramarsky Family to Ryoei Saito at Christie’s Auction, NY

For: $82.5 million

Adjusted Price: $152 million

Most expensive painting at the time of sale. A melancholical depiction of Vincent van Gogh’s last doctor in Saints Reimy who also declared him dead when the artist shot himself.

A Van Gogh Original

What someone was willing to pay over $90 million!

What someone was willing to pay over $90 million!

A Masterpiece?

Vincent Van Gogh - Starry Night

Vincent Van Gogh - Starry Night

William "Bill" Alexander - untitled but "War is Hell" would work.

William "Bill" Alexander - untitled but "War is Hell" would work.

The Search for a Home and Allies

There are 6.25 billion results for "wet-on-wet" art instruction if you conducted an internet search.

There are only 8 billion people in the world!

Apparently, there are over 3,000 people certified to teach in the "Bob Ross method" according to Arlington Magazine, which is actually the Bill Alexander method. Even Bob Ross would have told you that.

I don't know how many Bill Alexander Certified art instructors there are, but that process began well before Bob Ross arrived on the scene. That could also number in the thousands.

And then are all those who just watched TV and became self-taught instructors. They are buried somewhere in the 6.5 billion search results teaching the same thing.

Not only did Bill Alexander teach the world to paint, but he also taught them how to make a living.

I think it puts Bill Alexander on the same level as that person that showed people how to fish.

By the way, I have never run across any artwork of Bob Ross' where he ever goes too far outside the box.

I don't know if it was fear or inability. Popular rock and rollers don't start singing opera and vice versa, usually, for fear of losing their audience.

Decades of Rejection

In the course of attempting to locate a final home for Bill Alexander's "masterpiece series", I inadvertently became his public relations guy trying to put him back on the map culturally.

I thought it would be easier given the ripple effect of what he created.

Even when the artwork was offered up in the form of a donation for fundraising purposes to create awareness in some permanent fashion for Bill Alexander. The reception wasn't even lukewarm.

PBS never made the phone call they promised to make via email and the only prominent seller of Alexander art related products and services appears completely disinterested, despite generating considerable revenues over decades just riding on the coat tails of Bill Alexander.

A New York gallery thought they could fetch less than what Alexander originals sold for on Ebay. They didn't even bother doing any research.

Sotheby's was contacted once. As was Maynards, a more local auctioneer. There was no response

Artsy, an online art marketer and specialist with estate planners, advisors and other assorted characters was contacted not long ago. I am still waiting for a response from an "advisor".

The National Gallery of Canada didn't respond. Not even a "go away".

It seems nobody cares about Bill Alexander.

I am sorry Pop. I did my best, but even people you would have thought would work in your best interests have no interest is restoring your legacy.

It will be up to the many thousands of people you touched directly, and I fear they are mostly dead now.


Since I published the first of now five articles regarding the TV painter, William "Bill" Alexander just over two weeks ago, they have been read by about five hundred people. Not that many people really. It can be difficult to get in front of the right audience without help along the way.

There are no followers and no comments have been received.

Despite the low "results", this series of articles has been read in twenty-three countries. Some as unexpected and far flung as Syria, Nigeria, Panama and China.

I am hopeful there is someone or some organization who does recognize the importance of Bill Alexander in the grand scheme of things and will step up to the plate. While a wealthy collector would prove in my personal best interests, my preference would be to hang these paintings alongside other Alexander originals as well as other paintings done in the method of Bill Alexander, including Bob Ross.

I am certain that is what Bill would have wanted.

We have until the end of next year to get 'er done. After that, I will be looking for proposals from Ebay sellers.

The Complete Series

If you missed any of the preceding articles, you would find these links will get you there.

Restoring the Legacy of Painter William "Bill" Alexander

Measuring Greatness: How Does William "Bill" Alexander Stack Up?

Curse or Collectible? Where Do Extraordinary Bill Alexander Original Oil Paintings Belong? Why Do They Exist?

Glory or Ruination? Where Will William "Bill" Alexander Show up in Art History Books?

Unless there is a massive movement of people looking to set the record straight, Bill Alexander, inventor, artist, TV personality and teacher will fade into obscurity.

It was the one thing he did not want to happen. It is a shame those who continue to benefit don't even know what has happened.

I expect to produce only one more article on this subject. That being the ultimate disposition of Bill Alexander's masterpiece series.

Even if I no longer own them, they should be where they can be found and viewed up close and personal.

Thanks for reading and maybe even caring.

Starry Night: Vincent Van Gogh and Don McLean

Vincent Van Gogh - Starry Night

Vincent Van Gogh - Starry Night

Don McLean

Don McLean

Starry Night: Lyrics and Music

In 1971, Don Mclean, well known for his iconic single hit "American Pie" released that named album. Included in the album was what later became a hit single, Vincent, aka Starry, Starry Night.

Don Mclean wrote it to describe his "sincere admiration" for Van Gogh and because the singer/songwriter also suffered getting his art out.

don mclean starry night song link - Search (

I leave you with the lyrics and a link to the song if you wish to listen along to give you something to think about:

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land
Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now
Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand
Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now
For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night
You took your life, as lovers often do
But I could've told you Vincent
This world was never meant for
One as beautiful as you
Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frame-less heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget
Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow
Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Songwriters: Don Mclean. For non-commercial use only.

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