Dan Robbins, an artist who created the primary paint-by-numbers footage and helped flip the kits into an American sensation throughout the 1950s, has died. He was 93.
Robbins, whose works had been dismissed by some critics however later celebrated by the Smithsonian Establishment’s Nationwide Museum of American Historical past, died Monday in Sylvania, Ohio, mentioned his son, Larry Robbins.
He had been in good well being till a sequence of falls in current months, his son mentioned.
Robbins was working as a package deal designer for the Palmer Paint Firm in Detroit when he got here up with the thought for paint-by-numbers within the late 1940s. He mentioned his inspiration got here from Leonardo da Vinci.
“I remembered listening to that Leonardo used numbered background patterns for his college students and apprentices, and I made a decision to attempt one thing like that,” Robbins mentioned in 2004.
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He confirmed his first try — an summary nonetheless life — to his boss, Max Klein, who promptly instructed Robbins he hated it.
However Klein noticed potential with the general idea and instructed Robbins to provide you with one thing individuals would wish to paint. The primary variations had been of landscapes, after which he branched out to horses, puppies and kittens.
“I did the primary 30 or 35 topics myself, then I began farming them out to different artists,” mentioned Robbins, who primarily caught to landscapes.
Whereas the Craft Grasp paint-by-numbers kits weren’t embraced initially, gross sales rapidly took off and peaked at 20 million in 1955. Inside a couple of years, although, the market was flooded, gross sales dropped and Klein bought the corporate.
Collectively, Robbins helped create slices of Americana which are nonetheless collected and are discovered framed in properties throughout the nation. Palmer nonetheless sells at the least two kits: one remembering the Sept. 11 assaults and the opposite depicting the Final Supper.
“We prefer to suppose dad was probably the most exhibited artists on the planet,” mentioned Larry Robbins. “He loved listening to from on a regular basis individuals. He had a complete field of fan letters.”
He famous his father’s accomplishments are nonetheless on show on the Detroit Historic Museum, “proper down from Henry Ford,” his son mentioned.
Robbins, who spent a lot of his life within the Detroit space, was modest about his work and didn’t get too bothered by those that mocked the work.
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Critics got here to view the paint-by-numbers kits as a metaphor for a commercialized, cookie-cutter tradition and fretted that they far outnumbered the unique artistic endeavors hanging in American properties, mentioned William Lawrence Chook Jr., curator of the 2001 exhibition on the Nationwide Museum of American Historical past.
Some inside the museum questioned the thought of celebrating the paint-by-numbers craze and its affect on artwork, at the least till the crowds confirmed up, Chook mentioned.
“He would say, ‘I didn’t consider this, Leonardo did,’” Chook mentioned. “He was amused that individuals had been amassing them.”
When his paint-by-numbers days had been over, Robbins continued to work in product improvement, together with designing Completely happy Meal toys for McDonald’s, Chook mentioned.
Robbins, who wrote a e book, No matter Occurred to Paint-by-Numbers, mentioned on the exhibition’s April 2001 opening in Washington that his creation survived regardless of the critics.
“I by no means declare that portray by quantity is artwork,” he mentioned. “However it’s the expertise of artwork, and it brings that have to the person who would usually not choose up a brush, not dip it in paint. That’s what it does.”
Robbins is survived by his spouse, Estelle, sons Michael and Larry, and several other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.