Canadian master printmaker Alistair Bell produced some 300 prints from 1935 until he passed away in 1997. Bell’s chief concerns eschew the human in favour of animals and birds, as well as atypical landscapes and vegetation, boats and harbour scenes. All of these subjects attracted Bell with their strong, often linear or angular form, and are rendered with a striking clarity and expressiveness.
Bell was a self-taught artist, apart from a few courses in printmaking techniques, and he resolutely followed his own independent artistic path. Bell’s strongest influences were the Expressionist artists Emile Nolde, Oskar Kokoschka and Max Beckmann. Like some of the German Expressionists, he worked principally in the intractable medium of woodcut, a relief printing technique that Bell considered his “first love,” in part because it allowed him to zero in on his subjects with a penetrating directness and vigour. Frequently, the wood’s wavy grains – even knotted irregularities – show up on the surface of Bell’s prints, offering up a palette of sinewy or lyrical textures, which belie the painstaking labour of creating each of the images.
1. NSN article, "The Dynamic Art of the Line"
2. VAG Library listing
3. The Canadian Encyclopedia entry
4. CHIN listing
5. UBC Library listing
6. "Generations" exhibition biography and photographs