Mary A. Bell

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Mary A. Bell (July 2, 1873 – September 20, 1941) was an African-American artist. Little is known of her early life. She was born in Washington, D.C., to James F. Bell and Susanna County, probably laborers. Bell herself worked in different menial jobs when young, and received no formal training. For a while she worked for Edward Peter Pierce, justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, as well as for the sculptor Gaston Lachaise. She was in her sixties before her crayon artwork became known to the general public, thanks to patrons such as author Gertrude Stein, writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten, publicist Mark Lutz, critic Henry McBride and artist Florine Stettheimer. Her drawings are elegant scenes from the everyday life of the rich, as well as Creole or African-American subjects.

Troubled by mental illness, Bell was committed to a mental health facility in Boston in 1940, where she died the next year from heart failure.

Selected works[edit]

  • The Lost Chord
  • Oh, What Lovely Apples
  • Gratitude
  • Proposing
  • American Mixtures of the Ethiopian Race


  • Theresa Leininger-Miller, "Bell, Mary A.", American National Biography Online (2000)