Bell, George (1878-1966) by Scholes, Robert

George Bell (1878 – 1966)

From the pages of the Australian War Memorial at :

Having studied and worked as a portrait painter in London since 1908, George Bell was given a comparatively long commission as an official war artist. It lasted from October 1918 until February 1919, but he remained in France until April of that year. Bell reached the Western Front too late to witness any of the fighting, though he was there when the armistice was signed. As a result, like many of the other Australian official war artists, most of his pictures concentrated on the aftermath of the war. He depicted the devastated landscapes where the major battles had taken place as well as the day-to-day life of the troops. He did not seek to glorify either war or those engaged in it, but rather to create a record of the war’s destructiveness. His subjects included the equipment of war, the defeated enemy, and the ruins of the villages and farms. He was also keen to show the soldiers indulging in their favorite pastimes, such as gambling and attending race meetings. Finally, he completed a number of oil portraits of the 4th Division staff to whom he had been assigned. In December 1919 Bell’s poor health led to his moving back to Australia, where he became increasingly involved with the Melbourne arts community. He became a well-known art teacher during the 1930s and ’40s and an influential promoter of the Modern Art movement in Australia, founding and presiding over the Contemporary Art Society. Bell was in France, studying at the Académie Julian in Paris from 1904 to 1906, and based England from 1906 to 1919. In Paris he met Philip Connard, who shared his ideas about painting, and they often worked together in the next decade.

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