Bell was drawn toSt Ives,Cornwallas at that time it was the epicentre for British abstract art being the home to theSt. Ives groupof artists such asPatrick Heron,Peter Lanyon,Ben Nicholson,Barbara Hepworthand Terry Frost. From these artists, especially Nicholson, Bell received advice and help. Nicholson encouraged him to show in London and Waddington Galleries gave Bell his first solo exhibition in 1958. Patrick Heron wrote the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, stating that Bell was ‘the best non-figurative painter under thirty’.
The following year Bell was awarded the prize for painting at the Biennale de Paris. He stayed in St. Ives for five years constantly developing his technique and painting language but in 1960 was offered the Gregory Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds so he moved back to his hometown. It was during his time at the University of Leeds that Bell developed his shaped canvases, which set his work apart from other abstract artists of his generation. In the 1960s Bell showed work in exhibitions in the UK and USA including a major touring exhibition covering the period of 1966 to 1970, organised by the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh, that travelled to Belfast and Sheffield. During this time his work was bought for the Tate collection.
In 1973 he presented his new work at theWhitechapel Galleryin London, having just taken part in a major exhibition at theCorcoran GalleryinWashington, D.C.Over the course of the next thirty years Bell combined painting with teaching in various locations eventually moving toFlorida State University,Florida, in 1976 to become the Professor for Master Painting. Here with the provision of a warehouse sized studio and time to really develop his painting he produced new and powerful work. He called them his “heatscapes”, reflecting the influence of the sub-tropical climate and landscape on him and his work. He would spend the next 20 years in America before returning to west Cornwall, whose dramatic coastlines were an influence upon him, permanently.
Return to St Ives
In 1985 Bell was included in the LondonTateGallery's St Ives 1939-64 exhibitionand in 1993 he was part of the inaugural show of the Tate St Ives, where he was again re-established as part of the St Ives artists. He moved back to Cornwall in 1996 and was invited by David Falconer, the former Director of Millennium (Now Anima-Mundi), to have a solo exhibition in St Ives, which has culminated in a long-term relationship with the gallery and its current Director Joseph Clarke.
Trevor Bell died on 3 November 2017, at the age of 87 after a "short illness".
Prizes and fellowships
. Paris Biennale - Major Prize Winner
Gregory Fellow, Leeds University
Italian Government Scholarship
Florida Art Fellowship
Emeritus Professor, Florida State University
Honorary Fellow, University College Falmouth
Trevor Bell, A British Painter In America, Ed., A Palladino-Craig published by Florida State University,ISBN1-889282-14-6