Paint by number art has been around since the 1920’s but the was all the rage as a hobby in the 1950-60s. Talk about colouring inside the lines! And of course the instructions never encouraged you to ever sign your painting. So these paintings remain anonymous.
In 1953 alone the paint-by-number craze reached $80 million in sales.
I find mostly finished ones at estate and yard sales. Rarely do I find an actual unused or unfinished kit. Vintage paint by numbers can be purchased online and are popular for cottage decor and that kitschy look.
The ubiquitous still life, marinescapes, hunting scenes, forests were all standard fare for the paint-by-number artist.
In his book, Paint By Number, William L Bird, Jr. “takes us on an unbelievable journey where art meets kitsch and popular and high cultures collide in a collage of home economics, leisure time fun, and art education, Bird revisits the hobby from the vantage point of the artists and entrepreneurs who created the popular paint kits, the critics who reviled them, and the consumers who enthusiastically filled them in and hung them in their homes.”
One can only make up a story of the hobbyist or detailed person who took hours to paint these, opening the tiny little plastic pots of colour with the numbered lids.
Let’s hope that after painting for hours, the person was liberated to try painting on their own with the leftover paint at least. And maybe buy some canvas and tubes of paint and break out of the lines.