Graham Bell

Dover Front


Not on display

Graham Bell 1910–1943
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 635 × 762 mm
frame: 840 × 932 × 94 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1967

Display caption

Bell painted this picture on a trip to Dover in 1938 to fulfill a commission for the International Business Machines Corporation. The finely-observed detail of the hotel on the left, the chalk white cliffs and castle ramparts is typical of the realism of the Euston Road School, with which Bell was closely involved.

Although the artist painted on the spot, he may have used the photograph shown to the left to work on the details in his studio.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Graham Bell 1910–1943

T00905 Dover Front 1938

Inscr. ‘Graham Bell’ b.l.
Canvas, 25 x 30 (63.5 x 76.2).
Chantrey Purchase from Mrs. Quentin Bell 1967.
Coll. Bequeathed to Mrs Quentin Bell (Miss Anne Olivier Popham) by the artist 1943.
Exh. Paintings by Graham Bell, Thomas Carr, William Coldstream, Victor Pasmore, Claude Rogers, Geoffrey Tibbie, Rosenberg & Helft, September-October 1938 (1); A.I.A. Travelling Exhibition No. 2, 1941 ? (A.I.A. records lost); Contemporary British Paintings and Drawings, British Council tour of South Africa and Rhodesia, December 1947–October 1948 (3); British Painting 1925–50; Second Anthology, Arts Council tour, 1951 (4); British Art and the Modern Movement 1930–40, Welsh Committee of the Arts Council, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, October- November 1962 (147); R.A. 1967 (57).
Repr. Sir Kenneth Clark, Paintings of Graham Bell, 1947, No. 16, pl. 9.

Mrs Quentin Bell wrote (24 May 1967): ‘Graham Bell painted “Dover Front” during June and July 1938. He went to Dover to paint “The White Cliffs of Dover”, a commission from the International Business Machines Corporation (which commissioned works from 79 countries for exhibition at the Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, and at the New York World’s Fair in 1939).’

‘Graham stayed at the Hotel de Paris (really a pub) all the time he was in Dover... I went down several times... I suppose it must have been towards the end of July when “Dover Front” was about finished that Graham asked me to stand as though walking along the front, so he could paint in the figure which appears towards the right of the picture – which I found very embarrassing as the proper front walkers strode past me. I had a biscuit coloured suit and top-coat, which I also wore when sitting for the portrait you have in the Tate – which I was still sitting for in May 1938 though it was begun in the autumn of 1937.’

‘While in Dover Graham painted a small sketch for, as well as the big picture of, the White Cliffs (which he wasn’t very happy with); another small picture of a steamer in one of the dock basins, which I have, and “Dover Front” ... He sat... on the windowsill in a small railed-in area at the side of one of the tall stuccoed and canopied houses to the southern end of the front; these still stand, though many of the blocks of brown brick houses in the picture were destroyed by the shelling during the war.’

The photograph reproduced as the frontispiece in Clark (op. cit.) shows Graham Bell at work on “Dover Front”.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1966–1967, London 1967.


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