Dan Robbins, inventor of paint-by-numbers, dies at 93

Artist created the phenomenon after being inspired by Leonardo da Vinci

Dan Robbins, who created the paint-by-numbers phenomenon, has died at the age of 93.

Robbins died on Monday at his home in Sylvania, Ohio, his son told the AP news agency.

Robbins, who said his inspiration came from Leonardo da Vinci, was working as a package designer for a paint company in Detroit when he came up with the idea for painting by numbers in the late 1940s. Da Vinci used a similar method when teaching his apprentices how to paint.

The kits contained canvasses with printed numbers, corresponding with the paints to be used. By the 1950s, millions were being sold across the US.


Robbins’s works were dismissed by critics but he was celebrated by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in an exhibition of paint-by-number works in 2001.

Robbins, who wrote a book, Whatever Happened to Paint-by-Numbers, said at the exhibition: “I never claim that painting by number is art. But it is the experience of art, and it brings that experience to the individual who would normally not pick up a brush, not dip it in paint. That’s what it does, ” AP reported.