John Bell (1812-1895)

America for the Albert Memorial by John Bell

The sculptor John Bell was born in Hopton, Suffolk, and was educated in Norfolk. He later went to live in London, studying at the Royal Academy from 1829. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1832 up until the 1870s, and his important piece The Eagle Slayer (1839) was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, along with other works. He was distinguished enough to be given the commission to create the America group for the Albert Memorial. He also was the sculptor of the Wellington Memorial, Guildhall, and the Crimea Guards Memorial, Waterloo Place. In Norwich, he created the memorial in the cemetery to the soldiers of that city (1878) and in the Castle Museum has a piece called Babes in the Wood, which made his name in 1842, and was succeeded by various other sentimental groups of children, which descended somewhat in conception in the sculptor's later years. As an example of his architectural sculpture, we may mention the two panels on the Derby Guildhall.

In the 1870s, the porcelain manufacturer Mintons made various figures in Parian ware (a matt white porcelain) after John Bell, including a series of elegant girls - Miranda, Dorothea, Clorinda - and also Una and the Lion and Babes in the Wood. Examples of these may be found in the Norwich Museum.

Bell's sculpture tends to the dramatic, rather different from the cooler classicism favoured by artists such as John Gibson. Like the later arts and crafts artists, Bell believed in a unity of art and industry, and he also worked on decorative items for Elkington and Coalbrookdale among others. A particularly important example is his gates for the Coalbrookdale part of the International Exhibition of 1862, now the gates to a park in Warrington (Sankey Street).

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