Artwork by Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith,  Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Procession

F.M. Bell-Smith
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Procession

oil on board
signed and dated 1897 lower right; inscribed “Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Procession passing the National Gallery, London, June 22nd, 1897” on the reverse
6 x 9 ins ( 15.2 x 22.9 cms ) ( sight )

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

Price Realized $4,400.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2021

Provenance:
Private Collection, Toronto
Literature:
Roger Boulet, “Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith (1846-1923)”, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, 1977, pages 80-81 for similar compositions
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee took place on June 22nd, 1897, marking the 60th anniversary of her inheritance of the British throne. A seventeen-carriage convoy carried Queen Victoria, the royal family and leaders of Britain’s dominions from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul’s Cathedral for the six-mile procession. F.M. Bell-Smith has captured this important historical event with vigour, depicting London as a sea of colour. Soldiers in black form a human fence along the edge of the procession, dotted with bright red figures, with Union Jacks suspended from every corner and rainbows of bunting draped overhead. The poetic charm and energy of the composition is evident.

Bell-Smith was employed as a freelance illustrator by various publications, including the “Canadian Illustrated News”. The artist was commissioned to visit London for the Jubilee celebrations. He made notes on the passing pageantry and took photographs as a frame of reference during the actual execution of the final paintings. Bell-Smith applied his academic training and traditional artistic style in the various works of this significant event that he produced and included a watercolour in the Nineteenth Exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1898.

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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 1866 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 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