Showing Bell’s ability to generate space and emotion through abstraction, the 3ft x 2ft 6in (92 x 77cm) oil on canvas was painted in 1958 when the artist was at the epicentre of British Abstract art in St Ives.
The Leeds-born painter was a key figure in the third generation of artists drawn to the Cornish resort and was described by Patrick Heron as “one of the most important painters working anywhere today”.
Bell left St Ives in the 1960s and moved to the US where he became professor of fine art at Florida State University before returning to Cornwall in the 1990s. His decision to go abroad hampered recognition of his work in the UK and, although he was given a solo exhibition at Tate St Ives in 2004, he is yet to have a major retrospective in London.
Up and Across probably formed part of a one-man show at Waddington Galleries in 1958 and was loaned the following year to Bradford City Art Gallery.
Now it is available to buy for a five-figure sum alongside a small selection of other Bell works in a show of Abstract art associated with St Ives in the Cotswolds market town of Stow on the Wold.
Serious Shapes, which runs until August 31, comprises both canvases and sculpture from the 1950s through to the present day and is the first exhibition to be held at Stow Art House, a newly relaunched gallery founded and run by art dealer Simon Shore.
Shore, who also co-founded international art dealership Trinity House, has long had a passion for British Abstract art and now purely specialises in the area, claiming to have “one of the best, if not the best collections of British Abstract art outside of London”.
Stow Art House replaces his previous venture in Stow on the Wold, 1793 Gallery, which focused on Napoleonic art.
On the exhibition, Shore says: “For 25 years the small town of St Ives in west Cornwall was one of the leading places in the world for the production of avant-garde art. With its focus on the landscape of west Cornwall and beyond, the pictures collated for the Serious Shapes exhibition in some small way tells the story of the revolutionary Post-war, Modern British art world.”
Serious Shapes features around 30 works by artists such as Ben Nicholson, Adrian Heath, Sandra Blow, Terry Frost, Breon O’Casey, Rose Hilton, Paul Feiler and Bernard Meadows alongside others who visited and were influenced by St Ives but did not settle there, like Elisabeth Frink, Alan Davie and William Gear.
Three abstracted oils by contemporary painter Tim Woolcock, who Shore represents outside London, also feature.
Other highlights include Musical (1999) by Barbara Hepworth’s former studio assistant Breon O’Casey (1928-2011), apparently described by the artist’s daughter as one of the most important pieces he created, a 1959 oil on paper by Alan Davie (1920-2014) showing the strong influence of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko (the pair famously held a party in his honour in 1956 when Davie visited New York for his first American exhibition) and an early William Gear (1915-97) watercolour from 1947.
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the show priced at £10 with the proceeds going to City Harvest London, a charity that rescues and redistributes surplus food in the capital to those who need it.