Apostate from abstraction; doubter of heroic “American-type” painting in the fifties and sixties; anti-progressivist champion of underdog artists from André Derain and Balthus to Jean Hélion and Alberto Giacometti: the American painter Leland Bell (1922–1991) was a natural dissenter from prevailing trends, a heretic in the face of aesthetic orthodoxies. Like his favored artists, Bell was something of an unclassifiable maverick, and, not one to seek the spotlight, his work has suffered from comparative neglect. Never formally trained, he studied with Karl Knaths in his native Washington, D.C. In the mid-forties in New York City, he painted abstractions and was associated with the Jane Street Gallery and such artists as Nell Blaine, Albert Kresch, Robert De Niro, and his future wife, the Iceland-born artist Louisa Mattiasdottir—though none of his work from this period survives. An outstanding selection of the work that does...


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