Bell, Trevor  (1 of 11). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2015-02-10, 2015-02-11, 2015-10-06, 2015-10-07

  • Interviewees

    Bell, Trevor, 1930-2017 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Courtney, Cathy, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: [TB’s chair creaks] Trevor Bell [TB]; wren in the studio where recording is taking place in TB’s studio in Cornwall. Reason choosing Cornwall when on return from living in America; mentions Patrick [Heron] and Terry [Frost]. Refers to Harry [Harriet Bell] [HB], and their visits to Britain when they lived in Florida. TB mentions feeling breathless and being concerned. [4;09] TB born in Leeds [1930], father worked for railways, mother was seamstress. [pause in recording] TB has sister, five years older. First house TB remembers living in. Mentions mother’s character, Mary Bell [MB], her family from east coast of Yorkshire. David Hockney’s paintings of Yorkshire. TB would cycle with friends to Yorkshire coast when growing up; mentions Whitby; visiting museum at Whitby in recent adulthood, influence on him of what he saw. [16:30] TB mentions having travelled a great deal, spending his income from America on this. TB describes reproduction of black and white painting, Ogam, in catalogue Trevor Bell at Eighty, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Aether [Milleniusm Gallery, 2000]. TB says he doesn’t do preparatory work; apparent sketches on table in his studio are ‘notes’, goes on to refer to them as ‘essays’, a way of releasing images directly and quickly. When tries to do paintings from the notes finds it doesn’t work. Further comment about making Ogam. Comments that younger artists are now wanting to work in the ways TB’s generation wanted to get away from. TB’s love of Yorkshire; Whitby Abbey, its church; cycling from Leeds. [28:15] TB’s maternal relatives. MB, qualified to be a teacher of needlework and dressmaking; her work in Ministry of Aircraft Production during war. MB’s family were Methodists; TB would go to church as a child, joined choir, was a soloist. Organist came to TB’s parents house to protest about TB’s behavior; cub mistress also visited. TB and religion; mentions to HB’s parents being Quakers. TB’s first awareness of death. Memory of soldiers returning from the Battle of Dunkirk in Second World War to be billeted with families, no-one wanting to take black man, TB’s first awareness of prejudice. Mentions anti-Semitism in Leeds. [43:30] TB’s experience of Second World War. TB’s childhood drawings, still has first book of drawings, parents recognized his aptitude. Childhood toy crane; sailing toy boats. TB’s painting, Mary’s Garden, relating to memories of gardens MB made; comments on TB’s father. Books MB made for teaching needlework, clarity of the drawings. House relating to TB’s painting, Mary’s Garden. TB less interested in books than childhood comics. Mentions pictures made by TB’s sister using typewriter. TB more interested in life as a grown up than in childhood memories. [56:48] TB made casts of his lead soldiers as a child; speculates on whether he should have been a sculptor. In Yorkshire studio, prior to moving to St Ives, TB made a head with flat cap, using Fast Bite. Later work which TB made which came off the wall, piece in his Tate St Ives show. After being an art student, did art teacher’s diploma [ATD] to please MB, importance of this education re the nature of creativity in its purest sense; TB drew full-scale canoe, recurrence of ribbing forms in his images. Refers to quantity of slides of TB’s work; mentions Patrick Heron visiting. Work TB is disappointed hasn’t been more exhibited. [sound of telephone] [1:03:54] Speaks further about the work he made which comes of the wall. TB’s problems in being exhibited after days showing with Waddington gallery. TB’s mentions first experience of sailing dinghies, Isle of Wight, when a student. [1:07:20] TB’s paternal relatives. TB’s father worked as clerk on railways; TB was taken into signal box as child, possible link to TB’s love of dynamic, memories of trains. As a student, TB cleaned train carriages. Childhood memories of signal box and trains. Describes father as traveller not working for railways, contradicting earlier statement. [1:13:40] TB’s father, Harold Bell. TB mentions paternal uncle may have been a draftsman. TB says he rarely thinks about his family. Childhood memories of sister, Audrey. TB mentions being keen tennis player, sister bought him racket when he passed school certificate. Different treatment of TB and his sister; TB favoured by MB. Audrie’s adult life. MB. [1: 20:20] Talbot Road, TB’s first school, followed by Roundhay Grammar School. Mentions NLS recording with Kenneth Armitage, reference to Foxy Walker, art teacher who also taught TB. Value of ATD teacher training course TB undertook; mentioned fellow student whom TB subsequently married. Years later TB had job as external examiner for Northern Teacher Training schools, fellow examiner was tutor from ATD course. Mentions learning on ATD course that art could be made from anything. [1:27:38] Art room at Roundhay school; Foxy Walker got pupils to make scrolls relating to heraldry, learnt about ambiguous use of space. Refers to being sent to his old school when doing teacher training practice. Refers to his former wife having taken him to meet her parents in Wales, TB being asked about his background, mentions wanting to be an artist rather than teacher, mentions various rough jobs; speaks about men becoming emotional as they age. [lunch break]

  • Description

    Life story interview with artist Trevor Bell, 1930-2017.

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