John Bell (sculptor)

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For other people of the same name, see John Bell.
Babes in the Wood by John Bell, ca 1842. Norwich Castle.
"The Eagle Slayer" by John Bell. This cast iron version, exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, is now held at the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London.

John Bell 1811-1895 was a British sculptor, born in Bell's Row, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. His family home was Hopton Hall, Suffolk.


He was born at Hopton, Suffolk, in 1811, and was educated at Catfield rectory, Norfolk. He studied sculpture in the Royal Academy schools, and exhibited his first work at the Royal Academy, a religious group, in 1832. In 1833, he exhibited 'A Girl at a Brook' and 'John the Baptist' at the Academy, and two statuettes at the Suffolk Street Gallery, followed by 'Ariel' in 1834. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 'Psyche feeding a Swan' and 'Youth, Spring, and Infancy;' in 1837 'Psyche and the Dove,' and a model of 'The Eagle-Shooter,' the first version of one of his best statues. [1]

In 1837, the year in which Bell established his reputation, he also exhibited two busts, 'Amoret' and 'Psyche,' at the British Institution. [1] His Babes in the Wood was exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1839. Marble versions are held at Osborne House, and Norwich Castle.

In 1844 he entered his Eagle Slayer and Jane Shore in the competition held for sculpture for the new Houses of Parliament. A cast-iron version of the Eagle Slayer was produced for The Great Exhibition of 1851, where it stood under a canopy surmounted by the eagle. This version is now in the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. He also exhibited a sculpture of Shakespeare at the 1851 exhibition, which was very widely reproduced, for example on the front page of Recollections of the Great Exhibition.[2] It was also chosen by John Leech to be depicted as the centrepiece of his cartoon "Dinner-time at the Crystal Palace", published in Punch.

For Coalbrookdale he created the Deerhound hall table and Andromeda which was bought by Queen Victoria and is now a feature of the gardens at Osborne House.

Una and the Lion, inspired by Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene was also exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and reproduced in miniature in parian ware by Mintons. The full scale model was placed in the Crystal Palace which burned down in 1936.

His best-known work is the Crimean monument to the "Brigade of Guards" at the junction of Pall Mall and Waterloo Place, London.

For the Albert Memorial he created the group 'The United States directing the Progress of America.'

Bell's pupil Francis John Williamson became a successful sculptor in his own right, reputed to have been Queen Victoria's favourite.[3]

He died on 14 March 1895 at 15 Douro Place, Kensington.[1]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainDodgson, Campbell (1901). "Bell, John (1811-1895)". In Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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