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Artists Leland Bell
Leland Bell Photo

Leland Bell

American Painter

Movement: Realism

Born: September 17, 1922 - Cambridge, Maryland

Died: September 18, 1991 - New York, New York, USA

Leland Bell Timeline

Quotes

"The artist's role is to invent rhythms and forms to reveal a deeper apprehension of reality for the viewer."
Leland Bell
"I want the shuffles and echoes, and a certain mysteriousness... It's so bloody hard to paint."
Leland Bell
"Of course the psychological thing is there - and is important - but you find psychological drama in just about anything you wish. That has nothing to do with the painting."
Leland Bell
"Everything... has to be resolved through rhythms. You're constantly massaging each form, trying to get it home, pushing further and further until these all coalesce into a marvelous kind of rhythm that reveals the life of the painting."
Leland Bell

Synopsis

Leland Bell, a post-war American painter, musician and instructor, defied categorization, creating works that were simultaneously classical, abstract, and representational. He set himself apart from his peers with a unique, rhythmic style that employed strong outlines, bold sections of color, and an engaging dynamism. Bell embraced the human figure as a primary subject when other artists were moving away from figurative representation. His artwork's exuberant take on everyday life did not conform to any one movement, making Bell distinctive within the art world.

Key Ideas

A former jazz drummer, Bell was drawn to the rhythmic movement in the artwork of Balthus, Alberto Giacometti, and Piet Mondrian, all of whom greatly influenced Bell's own aesthetic style.
Bell's most frequent subject was his own personal, domestic life. Unlike his contemporaries who sought to transcend or re-imagine the everyday world, Bell rejoiced in it.
Bell reworked his artworks numerous times, even after they were displayed or published, remaining passionate about painting as a continual process rather than a means to create a final product.

Biography

Leland Bell Photo

Childhood

Leland Bell was born in Cambridge, Maryland, in 1922, and grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn. As a young boy, he was interested in drawing, often copying Norman Rockwell's illustrations and pictures in cowboy books. He also earned extra money by drawing caricatures for people on the street. Bell's other passion, jazz, led him to frequent New York's jazz clubs. In high school, Bell's Russian-Jewish parents moved the family to Washington, D.C. where he occasionally cut class to copy the works he saw at Phillips Memorial Gallery (now the Philips Collection) and the Library of Congress, and was particularly drawn to works by Paul Klee and Thomas Eakins.

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Leland Bell Biography Continues

Important Art by Leland Bell

The below artworks are the most important by Leland Bell - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Croquet Party (1965)
Artwork Images

Croquet Party (1965)

Artwork description & Analysis: Based on photographs of a weekend spent with family and friends, Croquet Game is one of the few paintings Bell has not modified since its original creation. It is representative of the recurring, career-long motif of family and domestic scenes. At the far left is Bell with his arm around his wife Ulla, who appeared in many of Bell's works, showing a tender connection between the two. The profound influence of Helion and Léger on Bell's work is apparent even in these early works, particularly in Bell's dark outlines that would become starker and crisper in his later paintings.

Oil on canvas - Center for Figurative Painting, New York

Still Life with Portrait of Temma (1969-1971)
Artwork Images

Still Life with Portrait of Temma (1969-1971)

Artwork description & Analysis: Given his focus on domestic life, still life arrangements were unsurprisingly a frequent subject for Bell. In these paintings, he often included disparate objects such as roses, skulls and cymbals, the latter a reference to his musical interests. Even in this seemingly static scene, Bell found ways to integrate movement through shadow and in the folds of the fabric. While remaining abstract, the carefully placed objects in these still life paintings each have a strong, distinct presence; the black outlines give clarity to the individual parts while bringing harmonious balance to the composition. In addition to the outlines, Bell's use of flat color and manipulations of perspective are reminiscent of works by Léger.

Oil on canvas - Center for Figurative Painting, New York

Temma in Orange Dress (1975)
Artwork Images

Temma in Orange Dress (1975)

Artwork description & Analysis: In many of Bell's works, the arms and legs are a primary focus to convey a feeling of movement. Here, the curves of Temma's limbs are echoed in various parts of the chair, the curved shadow under the chair and the shapes delineated on her dress. These curves contrast with the sharp, geometric shapes of the furniture and surrounding architectural frame. Temma in Orange Dress is one of many canvases Bell painted of his daughter throughout his career.

Oil on canvas - Estate of the artist

More Leland Bell Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Leland Bell
Interactive chart with Leland Bell's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Hans ArpHans Arp
Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian
Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
André DerainAndré Derain

Personal Contacts

BalthusBalthus
Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
Jean HelionJean Helion

Movements

De StijlDe Stijl

Influences on Artist
Leland Bell
Leland Bell
Years Worked: 1938 - 1991
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Louisa MatthiasdottirLouisa Matthiasdottir
Albert KreschAlbert Kresch
Gabriel LadermanGabriel Laderman
Nell BlaineNell Blaine

Personal Contacts

Thomas B. HessThomas B. Hess
Hilton KramerHilton Kramer

Movements


Useful Resources on Leland Bell

Books

Websites

Articles

Audio

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Leland Bell

By Nicholas Fox Weber

paintings

Changing Rhythms - Works By Leland Bell (1950s-1991) Recomended resource

By Martica Sawin, Robert M. Murdock, Steven Harvey, and Andrea Packard

Leland Bell. Paintings. 15 October to 15 November 1980

Official Website Recomended resource

Created by the Estate of Leland Bell

Lori Bookstein Fine Art: Leland Bell

Painter Leland Bell, A Great Lecturer, Finally Gets Exhibit Recomended resource

By Hilton Kramer
The New York Observer
September 22, 2002

Everyday Epic

By Jed Perl
The New Republic
April 27, 2011

Leland Bell, a Figurative Painter, Teacher and Lecturer, Dies at 69

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
September 20, 1991

"Smooth" Canvases at Leland Bell Exhibit

By Vivien Raynor
The New York Times
April 1, 1983

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman , Kate Beaver

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman , Kate Beaver
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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