Bell was one of the foremost pioneering Modern British post-war artists. After attending the Leeds College of Art, 1947-52, he worked in West Cornwall, where he made his reputation as a leading member of the younger generation of St Ives artists who established British art on the world stage.
Following his enormously successful first one-man show at Waddington Galleries, London, 1958, Bell was awarded the Paris Biennale International Painting Prize and an Italian Government Scholarship. Later he became a Gregory Fellow in Painting at Leeds University. After a large travelling retrospective in Scotland, Ireland and England in 1970 and a major one-man show at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1973, he was invited to become professor for Master (Graduate) Painting at the Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he developed the large-scale, intensely coloured paintings for which he is best known. In 1995 a group of his paintings were exhibited at the Tate Gallery St Ives and in 1995-96 he was included in the John Moores Liverpool exhibition. In 1998 the Florida State University honoured him with an Emeritus Professorship.
Bell’s work has constantly challenged traditional ideas about the role of painting. Starting with his first shaped canvases in 1960 he has released his work from constrains of the rectilinear format, and has gone on to develop the free-form, large scale paintings that have established his reputation in the United States. His work now owes a lot to sculpture with the shaped contours activating and reacting to the spaces in which they are placed. These canvases are no longer static or neutral objects on which to paint, instead they are unique and a new dialogue is established between their animated formal structure and Bell’s pictorial gestures. Bell’s work has always responded to his own experience of the landscape around him. Whereas his Tallahassee works matched the expansive scale and bright colours typical of Florida, his Cornish paintings mirror the more restrained beauty of the English coast.
1960, Gregory Fellow, Leeds University
1959, Paris Biennale
1959/58, Italian Government Scholarship
Public collections include
Arts Council of Great Britain, London
British Council, London
British Museum, London
Getty Centre for the History of Art, California
Laing Gallery, Newcastle
Leicester Museum & Art Gallery
Leeds City Museum
Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona
Tate Gallery, London
Tate Gallery, St Ives
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
STEVENS, C..Trevor Bell. Samson & Company Ltd., Bristol, 2009
STEVENS, C., Trevor Bell (Tate St Ives), exhibition catalogue,Tate Publishing, 2004
BELL, Trevor, AHLANDER, Leslie Judd, et al , Trevor Bell: A British Painter in America, exhibition catalogue, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, 2003