Artwork by Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith,  Bon Echo Rock (Afternoon)

F.M. Bell-Smith
Bon Echo Rock (Afternoon)

oil on board
signed, dated 1921 and inscribed “A” lower left; titled on the reverse
9.25 x 12.25 ins ( 23.5 x 31.1 cms )

Auction Estimate: $7,000.00$5,000.00 - $7,000.00

Price Realized $7,800.00
Sale date: June 1st 2016

Kaspar Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Calgary
Situated in south eastern Ontario on Lake Mazinaw, Mazinaw Rock, also known as Bon Echo, is part of Bon Echo Provincial Park. Throughout the early twentieth century until the 1930s, Lake Mazinaw was home to the Bon Echo Inn. Fashionable for families and individuals to vacation at lake resorts during this period, Bell-Smith often took sketching trips and holidays to the inn. With personal connections to the Denison family who owned the property, the artist visited often from 1911 until his death in 1923.

Applying his technical training honed from his education in England at the South Kensington School of Art and under the tutelage of his artist father, Bell-Smith depicts the steep Bon Echo rock on a bright day. The artist’s technique in watercolour can been seen in this oil painting with light atmosphere created through the watery application of the paints. The weightlessness of the ethereal clouds and calm lake stands in contrast to the impressive cliff of Bon Echo and underscores the artist’s ability to capture picturesque landscapes. A similar watercolour entitled, “Bon Echo, Lake and Rock” can be found in the collection of the Museum London, in London, Ontario.

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Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith
(1846 - 1923) OSA RCA

Born in London, England, his father was John Bell-Smith a portrait and miniature painter. He studied in London at the South Kensington Art Schools, and in Paris under Courtois, Dupain, and T.A. Harrison. He arrived in Montreal in 1867 and worked for a time as a photographer. Active in art circles he was associated with his father in the founding of the Society of Canadian Artists in 1867 along with W.L. Fraser, Otto R. Jacobi, Henry Sandham and A. Vogt. He lived mainly in Montreal until 1871 when he married Annie Myra Dyde and established residence at Hamilton (1871 and 1879-81). He was active in Southern Ontario as an art teacher in public schools at London, (1881-8); Art Director of Alma College, St. Thomas, Ontario, (1881-90) and Director at the Toronto Art School in 1889.

His style falls somewhere between mid Victorian and the modern movements of freer expression. Dr. Hubbard notes how Bell-Smith’s canvas “Lights of A City Street”reveals his conservative inclination of “sober brownish style” and E.F.B. Johnston on the other hand spoke of his brilliant colour and freedom of treatment. The artist chose this conservative style perhaps more for historical scenes. He painted figures, portraits, cityscapes, seascapes, beach scenes, and mountain scenes and most of his work was done in oils or watercolours. Paul Duval tells of how he sold his water colours in quantity at the market place, especially his meticulously done street scenes. He traveled to Western Canada and painted a number of water colours and oils of the Rocky Mountains.

He also went to England to do a series of pictures on the Death of Sir John Thomson who died at Windsor Castle minutes after being sworn in, by Queen Victoria, as a member of the Privy Council of Canada. While at Windsor Castle he did several canvases of the Queen and two of these are in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. In 1896 he studied at the Académie Colarossi in Paris and returned to Alma College Canada in 1897 to resume his duties as art director until 1910. He was an active as an illustrator and contributed to a series of pictures for the book “Picturesque Canada” which contained prose by George Monro Grant and illustrations by more than a score of American and Canadian artists. It was first published about 1882. He was elected Associate Member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1880 and Member in 1886; Member, Ontario Society of Artists (1872). He died in Toronto, Ontario.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977