Poole Museum
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From 9 April - 30 October 2022,
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Featured objects

'Portrait of a Young Black Girl' by Arthur Bell

User AvatarPosted by Penelope Lovesy at 09/10/2020 16:43:42

This weeks featured object is Arthur Bell’s undated ‘Portrait of a Young Black Girl’. As the name suggests it is a portrait of a young back girl in an orange sleeveless dress and is an oil painted on board.   

Arthur George Bell was born in Kettering in 1897. He journeyed to Bournemouth to Study at Bournemouth School of Art after the first World War. He had a successful teaching career across the south west and at the Cheltenham Colleges in Gloucester, where he became Director of Art 

In 1935 Arthur Bell was elected an associate of the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol (RWA), where he exhibited regularly until 1994.   He is best known as a watercolour painter and etcher and Poole Museum holds 15 of his oil paintings within our collection along with. In the past, his works have been selected for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. 

Bell married Bertha Ridley Beal in Penzance, Cornwall, in 1924Bertha is also a well-known artist and the museum holds 22 of her works, including a portrait of their son John. John followed in his parent’s footsteps and studied art at the Cheltenham Colleges, where he later took on a teaching role. The family lived at ‘Pucknowle’ on Constitution Hill Road in Poole and we have a lovely painting of the house within our collection. We also hold a portrait of Bertha painted by Arthur Bell in the 1930s and it is nice to have this family story told through their work. 

However, the same story cannot be provided for the subject of this painting, who remains nameless; their identity forgotten. The names and lives of people of colour have long been lost within history, excised by the people who have written it.  

October is Black History Month and this painting reflects an identical tale played out across the world over countless centuries. A tale of forgotten histories, histories that deserve to be told.  

In the Poole Museum collections, we have many objects relating to our diverse communities and to Poole’s history as an international trading port. We continue to research these collections to support our commitment to telling the stories of our whole community history. 

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