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Dan Robbins (2019), paint-by-numbers inventor

by Kirk Fox

Dan Robbins was working at Palmer Paint, a company in Ohio selling children’s paint sets, when he came up with the idea for paint-by-numbers. Palmer Paint’s owner asked Robbins to come up with a paint kit for adults. He heard that da Vinci used numbered background patterns in his work and based paint-by-numbers on that idea. Most of the kits were landscapes but included other designs such as ballerinas and kittens. The kits were a sensation in the mid-1950s but competitors saturated the market and sales greatly decreased. Robbins continued his career in product development, designing happy meal toys for McDonalds. Paint-by-numbers paintings were exhibited at the Smithsonian.  

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Died: April 1, 2019 (Who else died on April 1?)  


Details of death: Died at the age of 93, his son told the Associated Press.

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On whether paint-by-numbers is art: “I never claim painting by numbers is art. But it is the experience of art, and it brings that experience to the individual who would not normally pick up a brush.” – Robbins said at an exhibition in 2001, according to the Associated Press 

What they said about him: “We like to think dad is one of the most exhibited artists in the world. He enjoyed hearing from people, he had a whole box of fan letters.” – His son Larry Robbins told the Associated Press 
Full obituary: Los Angeles Times 

Related lives:  

Bob Ross and the joy of painting 

Lucian Freud painted people “how they happened to be” 

Jerry Merryman, inventor of the pocket calculator 


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