paint-by-number or paint by number - Refers to a painting made on a prepared canvas, which was commercially printed with a blue-line picture, each area of which bears a number code of a color from a palette of up to 90 colors. Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci is known to have directed his assistants to fill in numbered sections of his paintings. The modern version of the idea for paint-by-number originated in 1951 with Americans Dan Robbins, who was working for the auto industry, and Max Klein, who manufactured paint. "Actors act in plays written by somebody else," Mr. Robbins said (article by William L. Hamilton, New York Times, April 3, 2001). "Singers cover songs. This is just an artistic version of singalong." In America's post-WWII rapidly expanding suburbs, paint-by-number sets became a common sort of folk art. By 1953, 30 companies were producing paint-by-number sets, each typically sold for $2.50. Sales in 1953 were over $80 million.Thousands of images were available. Common subjects were picturesque landscapes, portraits of clowns, kittens, ballerinas, and reproductions of famous paintings. Today paint-by-number paintings are collected seriously, although prices for them remain quite low (see eBay). Some artists have taken paint-by-number as a subject of their own work, including Pop artist Andy Warhol. His Do-It-Yourself (Landscape) of 1962 is an homage to paint-by-number.
Unsigned, Lighthouse at Inspiration Point, 1951, paint-by-number, 16 x 20 inches, painted from an early set published by Palmer. See details 1 and 2.
Unsigned, French Cathedral and Market, paint-by-number, 11 x 15 inches (frame 15 x 18 inches).
Unsigned, After Pinkie by Sir Thomas Lawrence (British, 1769-1830), paint-by-number, 16 x 20 inches. See a detail. The original version of this "reproduction" painting is in the collection of the Huntington Gallery, CA. See Romanticism.
C. E. Gries, Jr., A European coach being pulled by four horses going through a forest with a castle in the background, undated, paint-by-number, 18 x 24 inches. See a detail. It is signed by Mr. Gries — "the painter" — in the lower left corner.
Andy Warhol (American, 1928?1930?-1987), Do-It-Yourself Seascape J, 1963, oil on canvas. By the 1960s the popularity of paint-by-numbers had thoroughly dismayed art critics — just the thing to tempt Andy Warhol to embrace it as Pop Art subject matter. To produce this picture, Warhol projected the line art from a paint-by-numbers kit onto a large canvas before painting.
American, Paint-by-Numbers Plan for Vermeer's The Artist's Studio. The major advertising company of Young and Rubicam used this drawing for a magazine advertisement in promoting their own firm, 18 x 28 cms, October 1964. Jan Vermeer (Dutch, Delft, 1632-1675). Below is the original from which this drawing was derived.
Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675), Allegory of Painting (The Painter in His Studio), c. 1666, oil on canvas, 130 x 110 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The model personifies Clio, Muse of History, holding the trumpet of fame in her right hand and the chronicle of world events in her left. Attributes of other muses, including a mask, lie on the table. These make the painter a narrator of stories. See studio.
Also see after, analogy, appropriation, bad art, buckeye, calendar painting, copyright, droit moral, ersatz, kitsch, likeness, low art, obsession, originality, popular culture, print, simile, and simulacrum.