Robert Anning Bell RA RWS (1863-1933)

Illustration to Keats

Robert Anning Bell was an important painter and illustrator whose work is more familiar in the north than the south, as his oil paintings are on display in Manchester and Liverpool but not in London. He was in fact born in London and studied at the Westminster School of Art and then in Paris. He also studied under George Frampton. He became an important figure in the development of art nouveau in Britain, most especially as an influential teacher - first at Liverpool University from the late 1890s, then at the Glasgow School of Art (from 1911), and after the War at the Royal College of Art. He became RWS in 1904, ARA in 1914, and RA in 1922.

As well as being a painter, Anning Bell also designed mosaics - most notably for Westminster Cathedral, stained glass, and some sculpture, most notably a long series of coloured plaster reliefs, an idea developed in collaboration with Frampton. He was also an illustrator, somewhere between arts and crafts and art nouveau, typically showing languid girls in classical poses, and twining art nouveau flowers, with a good use of white space. As well as illustrating some 20 or so books (including a Pilgrim's Progress, Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, and works of Keats and Shelley), Anning Bell produced many designs for magazines, of which among the most noteworthy are a fine set of headpieces for the Magazine of Art.


Anning Bell's A Spring Revel (1916) is in the Lady Lever Gallery near Liverpool. Queen Hippolyta's Guard is in Bradford. The Mermaid is in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath. The Tate Gallery holds Music by the Water and Mary in the House of St Elizabeth, though neither of these ever seem to be on show. As well as the Westminster Cathedral mosaics, and some for the central lobby in the Houses of Parliament, a fine large outdoor mosaic by Anning Bell is on the front of the Horniman Museum, at Forest Hill in South London.

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