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George Bell (1878-1966)
The Green Turban
1926
oil on canvas
61.3 x 51.1 cm
Gift of Howard Hinton 1935

 

Born 1878, Melbourne. Died 1966.

George Bell studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School and in Paris and London in the early 1900s. During 1918-19 he was an artist with the Australian Imperial Force in France. By 1923 he had returned to Melbourne and began his near thirty year term as a critic for the Sun News-Pictorial where he had a sympathetic approach to the work of younger and more experimental painters.

Bell’s early work is in the tonal academic realist style. Further study in London saw his involvement in the New English Art Club and the writings and work of Clive Bell and Roger Fry. This led to his interest in French post-impressionism, which he introduced into Melbourne by taking part in the establishment of the Contemporary Art Society. Bell, as a spokesman for modern art, pursued a long public argument with Sir Robert Menzies who wanted to establish an Australian Academy of Art. Through his teaching and public discourse he was a strong influence on young artists and public taste.

This three-quarter study of a lady in a green hat is the artist's wife, the actress Edith Hobbs. The work was exhibited at the 1926 NSW Society of Artists' show, and was a finalist in the 1926 Archibald Prize for portraiture, titled Mrs George Bell. Her left hand loosely clasps her coat and she looks wistfully away to her right. The very dark background and dark coat allow the green hat, the subject's blue eyes and her blue ring to stand out. In 1939 this work was on display in the Library of the Armidale Teachers' College.