Trevor Bell

Forces

1962

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In Tate Britain
Artist
Trevor Bell 1930–2017
Medium
Oil paint on board
Dimensions
Support: 1219 x 1830 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2011
Reference
T13393

Summary

Forces is a large painting in oil on canvas. Following his relocation in 1960 from St Ives to Leeds, where he took up a Gregory Fellowship in Painting at Leeds University, Bell continued a mode of painting inspired by landscape, nature and the elemental forces of weather that he had developed in Cornwall. The title of this work refers to both the climatic conditions that were part of its inspiration and the formal qualities of the work itself. The forces of the weather, of clouds passing across the high landscape of the Yorkshire Dales and Fells, are evoked by a group of interlocking forms, which seem to stretch out from the centre of the composition towards the edges. They are also suggested by the rising movement that derives from the triangular form at the centre.

The work was made in the studio in Leeds provided by the University as part of Bell’s Gregory Fellowship. The energetic application of thick, fluid paint is typical of Bell’s work of this period and reflects the influence in Cornwall of Peter Lanyon (1918–1964). The interrelationship of different areas of paint equally indicates his debt to Roger Hilton (1911–1975), in whose work a sense of tension between interlocking and closely proximate forms was a common feature.

Bell was one of the third generation of artists who gathered in St Ives in the second half of the 1950s. He went on to acquire a significant public profile in the 1960s and early 1970s. A major touring exhibition of his work in 1970 attracted significant attention from such writers as Patrick Heron and John Elderfield and was followed by an exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1973.

Forces is the most important of the works Bell made in response to the Yorkshire landscape when in Leeds and was the centrepiece of his contribution to an exhibition of work by the Gregory Fellows at Leeds City Art Gallery in 1962. The critic Norbert Lynton commented at that time on the toughness of Bell’s work, contrasting the ‘touch of acerbity’ in his response to landscape to an ‘Anglo-Saxon Capability Brown-ish charm’ (quoted in Knowles 2009, p.26).

Further reading
Allys Palladino-Craig (ed.), Trevor Bell: A British Painter in America, Tallahassee 2003.
Elizabeth Knowles (ed.), Trevor Bell, Bristol 2009.

Chris Stephens
March 2011

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