Trevor Bell RA British, 1930-2017
Trevor Bell was drawn to St Ives, Cornwall as at that time it was the epicentre for British abstract art being the home to the St. Ives group of artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, and Terry Frost. From these artists, especially Nicholson, Bell received advice and help. Nicholson encouraged him to show in London and Waddington Galleries gave Bell his first solo exhibition in 1958. Patrick Heron wrote the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, stating that Bell was ‘the best non-figurative painter under thirty’.
The following year Bell was awarded the prize for painting at the Biennale de Paris. He stayed in St. Ives for five years constantly developing his technique and painting language but in 1960 was offered the Gregory Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds so he moved back to his hometown. It was during his time at the University of Leeds that Bell developed his shaped canvases, which set his work apart from other abstract artists of his generation.
In the 1960s Bell showed work in exhibitions in the UK and USA including a major touring exhibition covering the period of 1966 to 1970, organised by the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh, that travelled to Belfast and Sheffield. During this time his work was bought for the Tate collection.
Trevor Bell was born in Leeds in 1930. He was awarded a scholarship to attend The Leeds College of Art from 1947 to 1952 and, encouraged by Terry Frost, moved to Cornwall in 1955. St Ives was the epicentre for British abstract art being the home to artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth and Terry Frost, he made his reputation as a leading member who helped establish British Art on the international stage. From these artists, especially Nicholson, Bell received advice and support. Nicholson, alongside his then dealer Charles Gimpel, encouraged him to show in London and Waddington Galleries gave Bell his first solo exhibition in 1958. Patrick Heron wrote the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, stating that Bell was ‘the best non-figurative painter under thirty’.
In 1959 Bell was awarded the Paris Biennale International Painting Prize, and an Italian Government Scholarship and the following year was offered the Gregory Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds whose advisors at the time were Sir Herbert Read and Henry Moore. It was during this period that Bell developed his shaped canvases, setting his work apart from other artists of his generation.
Throughout the 1960’s Bell showed work in major exhibitions in the UK and USA and during this time his work was first purchased for the Tate collection. In 1973 he presented his new work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, having just taken part in a major exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC. Over the course of the next thirty years Bell combined painting with teaching in various locationseventually moving to Florida State University in 1976 to become the Professor for Master Painting. Here with the provision of a warehouse sized studio and time to really develop his painting he produced the large-scale, intensely coloured works for which he is known, reflecting the influence of the climate and landscape on him and his work. He went on to spend the next 20 years in America. Important exhibitions were held at the Corcoran Gallery and the Academy of Sciences in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum in Miami, The Cummer Gallery and the Museum of Art at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In 1985 Bell was included in the London Tate Gallery’s St Ives 1939-64 exhibition and in 1993 he was part of the inaugural show of the Tate St Ives. Moving from Florida in 1996 he established his studios near Penzance, Cornwall and continued to exhibit in London, the USA and St Ives.
Bell had a major solo exhibition at the Tate St Ives in 2004 and, in 2011, a further 14 works were obtained by the Tate Gallery for their permanent collection.
Bell has had works purchased and commissioned by numerous other international museums and public and private collections including (among others) The Arts Council of England, British Council, British Museum, Boca Raton, Laing Art Gallery, Ljubljana’s U.V.U Keleia Collection and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Bell is twice a recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Council of Florida, an Honorary RWA of the Royal West of England Academy, an Honoury Fellow of University College Falmouth and an Emeritus Professor of Florida State University.
He passed away on 3rd November 2017 aged 87.
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