Charles Bell - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 17, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York
    Collection Richard Clair, New York

  • Literature

    L.K. Meisel, "Charles Bell", Photo-realism, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2008, plate 110, p.58 (illustrated)
    H. Geldzahler and L. K. Meisel, Charles Bell, The Complete Paintings 1970-1990, Harry N. Abrams, 1991, plate 58, p.48 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “By radically changing the size of everyday objects we can get into them and more easily explore the surfaces and construction–their reality.” Charles Bell

    Acclaimed American Photo-Realist, Charles Bell has left a legacy of captivating still life paintings imbued with child-like wonder and Pop sensibility. Influenced by Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud, Bell’s work is distinguished by its use of familiar and everyday subject matter, depicted on a scale as much as ten times life-size. Moving from the west coast to New York City in 1967, Bell felt inspired by the resurgence of subject matter into painting, “the more research I did the further I got into realism and eventually did a lot of experimentation with trompe l'oeil. You had to be something of a renegade to be a realist back then.” Indeed, Bell had developed and employed traditional painting techniques used by Vermeer and Dali while engaging with photography to create his large-scale subjects. He would use the photographic lens to engage with forms, focus and the reflection of light, capturing his subject matter and then working from a photo transparency during a three to six month period of painting.

    The present lot, Untitled (Monkey & Doll), 1973, is exemplary of Bell’s undeniable engagement with realism and nostalgia. Here, the artist creates somewhat of a fantasy, bringing the familiar to life, anthropomorphized children’s toys, bathed in light against a dark background, engaged in a quiet tender moment. Bell’s oeuvre can be categorized into three periods according to subject; his toys, gumball machines, and pinball machines. The present lot, Untitled (Monkey & Doll), stems from his first series of toys, from which the artist’s famed Seaplane in Bathtub, 1972, emerged as a meditation of perspective and refractions of light. Certainly, Bell sought to bring pictorial majesty and wonder to the mundane. The present lot was noted by the artist as his Pieta, suggesting a direct association between composition and chiaroscuro effect: “For myself, choosing subjects is definitely an emotional process rather than an intellectual exercise.” (Charles Bell, in L.K. Meisel, "Charles Bell", Photo-realism, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2008, p.55-56)


Untitled (Monkey & Doll)

oil on canvas
72 x 40 in. (182.9 x 101.6 cm.)

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 17 May 2013 10am