John Bell

(19 August 1811 - 14 March 1895)

#The sculptor John Bell was born in Hopton, Suffolk, and was educated in Norfolk. He later went to live in London, studying at the Royal Academy from 1829. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1832 up until the 1870s, and his important piece "The Eagle Slayer" (1839), was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, along with other works. He was distinguished enough to be given the commission to create the America group for the Albert Memorial.

He also was the sculptor of the Wellington Memorial, Guildhall, and the Crimea Guards Memorial, Waterloo Place. In Norwich, he created the memorial in the cemetery to the soldiers of that city (1878), and in the Castle Museum has a piece called "Babes in the Wood", which made his name in 1842, and was succeeded by various other sentimental groups of children, which descended somewhat in conception in the sculptor's later years. As an example of his architectural sculpture, we may mention the two panels on the Derby Guildhall.

In the 1870s, the porcelain manufacturer Mintons made various figures in Parian ware (a matt white porcelain) after John Bell, including a series of elegant girls - "Miranda", "Dorothea", "Clorinda" - and also "Una and the Lion" and "Babes in the Wood". Examples of these may be found in the Norwich Museum.

Bell's sculpture tends to the dramatic, rather different from the cooler classicism favoured by artists such as John Gibson. Like the later arts and crafts artists, Bell believed in a unity of art and industry, and he also worked on decorative items for Elkington and Coalbrookdale among others. A particularly important example is his gates for the Coalbrookdale part of the International Exhibition of 1862, now the gates to a park in Warrington (Sankey Street).

English sculptor. He enrolled at the Royal Academy in 1829, and attracted attention there with "The Eagleslayer" (1837), of which versions were made in bronze, marble (c. 1844; Wentworth Woodhouse, S. Yorks) and iron (1851; London, Bethnal Green Mus. Childhood). The latter, cast by the Coalbrookdale Company, was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, placed under a canopy with the slain eagle at the top. Prestigious commissions followed, including statuary for the Houses of Parliament: Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland (marble, 1848), and Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (marble, 1854). Bell's best-known public sculptures are the "Guards' Crimean War" memorial (bronze, 1860; London, Waterloo Place) and America, part of the Albert Memorial (marble, 1864-9; London, Kensington Gardens). Both show his stylistic and iconographic compromise between Neo-classical tradition and meticulous contemporary realism. Bell's works on imagined subjects, many of which were reproduced in Parian porcelain by W. T. Copeland and by Henry Cole's Art-Manufactures, include "Babes in the Wood" (marble, 1842; London, V&A); "Andromeda" (bronze, c. 1851; Osborne House, Isle of Wight, Royal Col.); and "The Octoroon" (marble, 1868; Blackburn, Town Hall), the eroticism of which was influenced by Hiram Powers. Bell was more innovative as an industrial designer than as an artist. His creations include fish-knives, a table supported by cast-iron deerhounds (1845), for the Coalbrookdale Company, a matchbox shaped like a crusader's tomb (1848), and a cast-iron Cerberus doorstop (1849). He was a prolific correspondent and also published some essays, including 'Colour on Statues and Paintings' (1861), 'The Principle of Entasis as Applied to the Obelisk' (1862), and 'The Lost Venus of Knidos' (1894).
(b Hepton, Suffolk, 1811 or 1812; d London, 1895).

View painter's art: John Bell (1811 or 1812-1895) [new window view]