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Leland Bell Artworks

American Painter

Leland Bell Photo
Movement: Realism

Born: September 17, 1922 - Cambridge, Maryland

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

Artworks 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)

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.

Still Life with Portrait of Temma (1969-1971)

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.

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Temma in Orange Dress (1975)

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.

Dusk (1977-78)

Numerous Bell paintings recreate a scene similar to that of Dusk, where a domestic group responds to a butterfly or bird, taking inspiration from Balthus' La Phalene (The Moth), in both the intrusion of nature and the figures' lively gestures. Bell's playful, almost choreographed images make expressive use of the arms, both to denote a celebratory mood and to visually connect sections of the painting, almost like a Greek frieze. Bell depicts each figure as an individual entity, while also drawing them together through nearly sculptural use of light and shadow.

Morning II (1978-81)

Part of a series of paintings of similar titles and subjects, Morning II is one of Bell's largest two-figure works. Bell placed these statuesque bodies within an intimate scene of intersecting planes, diverse angles and rhythmic movement to evoke the energy and flow of life. He connected the figures through outstretched, moving limbs and planes of flat color. In contrast to the distinct, black lines outlining the forms within his paintings, Bell often blurred fingers and toes into the surrounding colors, further suggesting continued movement. Balthus, one of Bell's main sources of influence, uses a similar tactic in his La Phalene, in which a nude woman's outstretched hands and feet recede into the background.

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Standing self-portrait (1979)

Bell's self-portraits, of which he painted many, are striking and powerful images. Many focus only on the face, while others, such as Standing self-portrait, feature the entire body. In all of them, Bell presents the head in a very sculptural manner, giving it weight and intensity as well as a psychological depth in the carefully rendered features. This painting also includes everal personal references: one of his Morning paintings hangs on the back wall, and to the right are drums that denote Bell's proficiency as a jazz musician.

Related Artists and Major Works

Composition with Color Planes (1917)

Composition with Color Planes (1917)

Artist: Piet Mondrian (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

While still in Holland during World War I, Mondrian helped found the group of artists and architects called De Stijl, and it was during this period he refined his style of abstraction even further. Composition with Color Planes shows his break with Analytic Cubism and exemplifies the principles he expressed in his essay "The New Plastic in Painting." Here, Mondrian has moved away from the Cubist palette of ochres, grays, and browns, opting instead for muted reds, yellows and blues - a clear precursor to his mature palette that focused on primary colors. The blocks of color float on a white ground and no longer reference a physical object in nature such as a tree or building, while all reference to illusionistic depth has been eliminated. The composition is based on color and balance and gives even weight to all areas of the picture surface, moving toward the precise balance of his mature canvases.

Annette with Chariot (1950)

Artist: Alberto Giacometti (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Although sculpture is the medium for which Giacometti is best known, he was also an accomplished painter and draughtsman. This 1950 oil work shows his skill at creating an impression of profound depth on a flat surface. The subject here is the artist's wife Annette, who is composed of the same lines and strokes used to depict the surrounding room, as if she herself were just another object. Nevertheless, like Giacometti's sculptural stick figures, Annette does subtly emerge from the composition, asserting her humanity amidst the otherwise bland order of the room. Much as some of the leading Existentialist thinkers of the time noted, Giacometti's mature work was an antidote to abstraction.

Untitled (Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance) (1917)

Movement: Dada (Read Movement Overview, History, and Artworks pages)

Artist: Hans Arp (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Hans Arp made a series of collages based on chance, where he would stand above a sheet of paper, dropping squares of contrasting colored paper on the larger sheet's surface, and then gluing the squares wherever they fell onto the page. The resulting arrangement could then provoke a more visceral reaction, like the fortune telling from I-Ching coins that interested Arp, and perhaps provide a further creative spur. Apparently, this technique arose when Arp became frustrated by attempts to compose more formal geometric arrangements. Arp's chance collages have come to represent Dada's aim to be "anti-art" and their interest in accident as a way to challenge traditional art production techniques. The lack of artistic control represented in this work would also become a defining element of Surrealism as that group tried to find paths into the unconscious whereby intellectual control on creativity was undermined.


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