Trevor Bell was born in Leeds in 1930.
Bell was awarded a scholarship to attend the Leeds College of Art between 1947 and 1952 and, encouraged by Terry Frost, moved to Cornwall in 1955. He was drawn to St. Ives, at that time the epicentre of British abstract art and home to Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Roger Hilton and Frost, himself. From these artists, and especially Nicholson, Bell received advice and help. Nicholson encouraged him to show in London and the Waddington Galleries gave Bell his first solo exhibition in 1958. Heron wrote the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, stating that Bell was ‘the best non-figurative painter in Britain under thirty’; the show sold out at the preview.
The following year Bell was awarded the prize for painting at the Bienalle in Paris and he remained in St. Ives for five years, constantly developing his technique and painting language. In 1960 he was offered the Gregory Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds and he moved back to his home city. It was during his time in Leeds that Bell developed his shaped canvases, which set his work apart from other abstract artists of his generation.
In the 1960’s Bell showed work in exhibitions in the UK and the USA including a major touring exhibition covering the period from 1966 to 1970, organised by the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh and it was around this time his work was bought for the collection of the Tate Gallery.
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 D.C.. During the course of the next thirty years Bell combined painting with teaching in various locations, eventually moving to Florida State University where, in 1976, he become the Professor for Master Painting. Here, with the provision of a warehouse sized studio and time to really develop his painting, he produced new and powerful work. He called them his ‘heatscape’, reflecting the influence of the sub-tropical climate and landscape on him and his work. He would spend the next 20 years in America before permanently returning to west Cornwall, whose dramatic coastlines were a continuing influence upon him.
In 1985 Bell was included in the London Tate Gallery’s ‘St Ives, 1939-64’ exhibition and in 1993 he took part of the inaugural show of the Tate, St Ives, where he re-established his place as a leading St Ives’ artist. He moved back to Cornwall in 1996 and was invited by David Falconer, the former Director of Millennium, to have a solo exhibition in St Ives, which culminated in a long-term relationship with the gallery.
Trevor Bell died on 3 November 2017, at the age of 87 after a short illness.
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