Every Man A Rembrandt

Dan Robbins in a paint-by-numbers self-portrait
This was the promise on every paint-by-numbers kit created in the 1950s and distributed by its pioneer, Dan Robbins. Mr. Robbins, who passed away in 2019, was a package designer who was tasked by his boss to come up with an idea to create essentially a coloring book that could be geared towards adults. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, the famous artist who handed out numbered designs to his apprentices, Mr. Robbins took the concept and evolved it into the paint-by-numbers kits you see here, which opened up art to the masses.
The idea exploded and millions fell in love with his kits. It originally became a hobby for people without the resources to buy art, but with the leisure time to create and decorate their homes, perhaps for the first time in a post-war era. The kits became so popular that exhibits have been staged in museums to commemorate the phenomenon. While Mr. Robbins never claimed painting by numbers to be art, he wrote that it is more so "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.”