This portrait is an essay in subtle earth tones with gently modulating dark green and brown hues. Bell used the flesh tones of the model's rounded back and the restrained red of her hair and face to prevent her total recession into the depths of the composition. The sole lavish note of this subdued schema is the young woman's long, dangling earring.
Bell was a New Yorker who sailed for Europe in 1881 and studied in Munich for the next decade. This figure study exemplifies his early work and Munich school training.
Noted Indiana artist J. Ottis Adams was a fellow student of Bell in Munich, and this canvas hung in his studio.
Edward August Bell and the Munich School Style
In 1883, Edward August Bell took his first trip abroad and enrolled at the Royal Academy in Munich as a student of the realist painter Ludvig von Loefftz. During his stay in Munich, Bell participated in a number of important exhibitions, including several at the Royal Academy. In 1889, Bell exhibited Lady in Gray at the Paris Exposition, which brought him international attention and an award. The painting portrayed a standing woman in a long gown against a softly patterned background. This style of painting would be used often in Bell’s portraits of women from this period. During his lifetime, Bell received great recognition for his work and exhibited at numerous international expositions.
Portrait of a Young Woman is an essay in subtle earth tones accented by the woman’s long dangling earrings. The simple flourish that suggests the figure’s right hand demonstrates Bell’s adept brushwork. The painting exemplifies Bell’s work from his Munich School training and follows the format established in his award-winning Lady in Gray.