Pam's Famous Dunder Mifflin Watercolor Painting From The Office Is A Lie

The relationship between Michael Scott (Steve Carell) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) was one of the more endearing storylines during the nine-year run of "The Office." Even when her own life was falling apart, Pam always looked out for her bumbling but well-intentioned boss. But a pivotal episode in season three revealed a depth not yet seen in their friendship. And it all centered around a prop that wasn't quite what it seemed.

Pam was the one person in the office to really have Michael figured out. After all, she was the only employee to leave Dunder Mifflin for the Michael Scott Paper Company. For all of Michael Scott's many flaws, he always had Pam's best interest at heart. This is a boss who wrote Pam a goodbye poem when she left for art school. Pam and Michael's bond was so strong that many fans of "The Office" believe the series should have ended with their emotional airport goodbye near the end of season seven.

Because "The Office" was shot in "mockumentary" style, presented as a documentary being filmed at a Pennsylvania paper company, the show went to great lengths to achieve realism throughout its nine-year run. So it might upset hardcore fans when they learn that the beloved watercolor painting of the Dunder Mifflin building from Pam's art show in season three wasn't a real watercolor at all.

It revealed more about Michael than Pam

The "Business School" episode was important for the character arcs of Pam and Michael, but also their relationship. In season three of "The Office" we begin to see a more confident Pam Beesly. Though she has reunited with her ex-fiancé Roy (David Denman), she's reluctant to fall back into old habits, even after Roy tells her she had "the prettiest art of all the art."

The problem is almost nobody else from the office showed up to help bolster Pam's confidence, with the exception of Oscar and his snooty boyfriend Gil. That is until Michael Scott arrives. The moment is endearing and signaled a deepening of their friendship.

But the episode is about the growth of Michael Scott on his own too. Michael has a lot of bad days in "The Office" but this might be one of his worst. The episode is named "Business School" because temp Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) invites Michael to speak at his college business class. Although honored at first, Michael realizes he's there to discuss the failing business model of the paper industry.

Dunder Mifflin represents who Michael Scott is, so the students in Ryan's business class might as well have been attacking Michael himself. He's forced to face the crumbling reality of the paper industry as he knows it. 

Despite this, Michael still races across town to make it to Pam's art show, one of only two co-workers to do so (Oscar being the other). Once there, Michael gushes over Pam's art, a gesture that moves Pam to tears. It revealed a rare side of Michael that we would slowly begin to see more of in future episodes.

How important was the painting to the show? The last shot of the entire series is a flashback to Michael hanging Pam's watercolor in the Dunder Mifflin office. But here's the thing: It's not actually a painting.

There's no real painting of the Dunder Mifflin building

In Episode 46 of the "Office Ladies" podcast, Fischer revealed to fans of the show that nobody painted the watercolor, because it wasn't a real painting. Fischer said:

"I got a little lowdown on the Dunder Mifflin painting from Kentapedia [producer Kent Zbornak]. He said that is not actually a watercolor, but it was a photograph of our building that they manipulated to look like a watercolor. So no one ever did a from blank page watercolor of the building."

There's a deep layer of irony when you think of Michael's closing dialogue from the episode, discussing the watercolor. "It is a message. It is an inspiration. It is a source of beauty. And without paper, it could not have happened," Michael says to the camera before turning to the watercolor, contemplating and then rethinking. " had a camera."

Just because it wasn't real doesn't mean it still isn't important. The painting was almost destroyed in a deleted storyline from season six. In Episode 111 of the Office Ladies podcast, Fischer revealed that in the "Mafia" episode, Erin almost destroyed Pam's watercolor when trying to clean it. They went as far as to shoot the scene, but Fischer lobbied all the way to series creator Greg Daniels to save the painting, calling it "the heartbeat of the show." It was removed from the episode at the last minute.

Jenna Fischer has the original prop

Jenna Fischer cared enough about this beloved prop to ask for it when the series concluded. "I asked if I could have Pam's watercolor of Dunder Mifflin, and I was told officially from production that I could not have it because it was going to be cataloged as part of the set decoration," Fischer admitted on episode 28 of her podcast.

It's hard to think of such a treasure from "The Office" locked up "Indiana Jones" style in a gigantic warehouse full of countless cataloged TV artifacts. But in a prank that would make Jim and Dwight proud, Fischer ended up with the picture.

"As I was leaving, [prop master] Phil Shea ran up to me," Fischer confessed. "He said, 'Here, you should have this. I made a color photo of it. They'll never know.' I have the original in my house."

It's quite the bold move that we can't imagine Pam Beesly ever conceding to. But if it can't continue hanging in the building used for "The Office" production, we're glad it's with its original creator ... sort of.