Artwork by Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith,  School’s Out, 1885

F.M. Bell-Smith
School’s Out, 1885

watercolour and gouache
signed and dated 1885 lower left
23 x 38 ins ( 58.4 x 96.5 cms ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $20,000.00$15,000.00 - $20,000.00

Price Realized $66,000.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Kaspar Gallery, Toronto, circa 1987
Private Collection, Italy
Masters Gallery, Calgary as “Winter Street”, 1885
Private Collection, Vancouver
A.K. Prakash & Associates, Inc., Toronto as “The Return from School”, 1885
Acquired by the present Private Collection, March 2019
“The Joint Annual Exhibition of the R.C.A. and the O.S.A.”, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Toronto, 14 May 1885, no. 316 as After a Snowstorm
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art”, Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 13 April‒23 June 2019 as “School's Out”, 1885
Frederic Marlett Bell–Smith was born in London, England in 1846. Following artistic training in London and Paris, the artist arrived in Montreal in 1867, where he first worked as a photographer. He became active in local art circles, and helped his father in founding the Society of Canadian Artists in 1867. He lived mainly in Montreal until 1871, when he got married and moved to Hamilton. He was later an art teacher in London (1881-8); Art Director of Alma College in St. Thomas, Ontario (1881-90) and then Director at the Toronto Art School in 1889.

Bell–Smith alternated between a traditional, academic approach and a looser, more vibrant aesthetic in his work. The artist’s preferred medium was watercolour, which he mastered in this charming work “School's Out”. He advocated for a distinctly Canadian style and believed that it would rival European masterpieces. Perhaps taking inspiration from his father, a portrait and miniature artist, Bell–Smith captures one of Canada’s classic winter activities in this detailed and playful street scene after a recent snowfall. On the left side of the picture, three young girls walk together on the sidewalk in stylish winter dress. As an article of historical documentation, the picture gives insight into the winter fashions of the time. In front of the girls are two boys preparing to throw snowballs at their friends in the middle of the street. The individual footprints on the ground and the light dusting of snow across the tree branches demonstrate Bell-Smith’s great attention to detail.

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

Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith (1846-1923) was born in London, England and died in Toronto, Ontario. His earliest training was under his artist father. He attended the South Kensington School of Art under Alexander Hamilton until his family emigrated to Montreal, Quebec in 1867. Later, he studied in Paris at the Academie Colarossi under Joseph-Paul Blanc, Gustave Courtois, and Edmond-Louis Dupain. The artist arrived in London, Ontario in 1881 where he was appointed Art Director of Alma College (St.Thomas) and, the following year, Drawing Master at Central Public School. In 1888 he moved to Toronto where he was named principal of the western branch of the Toronto Art School. He continued to serve at Alma College until 1901. Bell-Smith was a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Western Art League. He was elected an Academician in the Royal Canadian Academy and played important roles in many local and national artistic associations. His work was very popular in his lifetime: he painted portrait, genre, and landscape subjects in both oil and watercolour in the impressionistic, picturesque, and sublime styles of the last century. Bell-Smith also won many international honors in his career.