“The vibrant abstract paintings and drawings of Trevor Bell, helped define the modern art of the community of St Ives”.Trevor Bell’s Obituary in the Guardian, 10 Nov 2017.
Trevor Bell was born in Leeds in 1930 to Harold Bell, a sales representative for a chemicals firm, and Elizabeth, a teacher. Both parents encouraged their son’s evident artistic talent. On leaving Roundhay school in Armley he gained a scholarship to attend the Leeds College of Art between 1947 and 1952. There he met Dee Hobdell, whom he married after graduating. He took a teacher training course and, returning to Yorkshire after a short period in London, had various part-time jobs teaching art in evening and Saturday classes.
In 1955, encouraged by Terry Frost who was then at Leeds University, Bell moved to Cornwall at a time when St Ives was the UK’s centre of abstract art. Bell soon met the leading figures of the town’s burgeoning artistic community; Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Barbara Hepworth. The young artist shared a studio with the British/ American sculptor Brian Wall in the basement of the St Ives seamen’s mission. In St Ives Bell quickly found recognition. Nicholson, along with his dealer Charles Gimpel, encouraged Bell to show in London and Waddiington Galleries gave the aspiring artist 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 1960 he returned to Leeds as a the youngest ever Gregory fellow at Leeds University, whose advisors at the time were Sir Herbert Read and Henry Moore. The move afforded Bell two years of unencumbered work and affirmed his artistic lineage. It was also during this period that Bell began to use flat surfaces and brilliant colour, combining these with angular canvases that set his work apart from other artists of his generation.
“The best non-figurative painter under thirty”
Patrick Heron wrote on Bell in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue.