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Bell, Edward Hamilton

    Image Credit: Wikimedia

    Full Name: Bell, Edward Hamilton

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1857

    Date Died: 1929

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Career(s): curators


    First curator of the John G. Johnson Collection, and assistant director, Pennsylvania Museum of Art (later Philadelphia Museum of Art). Bell’s father was Robert Courtenay Bell (1816-1896), a banker, and mother Clara Poynter (Bell) ( 1834-1927). He was distantly related on his mother’s side to Edward Burne-Jones and the writer Rudyard Kipling. Poynter, Bell’s uncle, married Agnes Macdonald, a sister of Burne-Jones’s wife; she was in turn aunt of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). The younger Bell studied studio art at the Slade School of Art in London and under his uncle, Edward John Poynter, later president of the Royal Academy in London and director of the National Gallery. In 1885 Bell moved to the United States where he worked as a landscape and building architect. In 1895 he created the decoration for Biltmore, the mansion in the hills of Asheville, North Carolina for George W. Vanderbilt (1865-1914). In the twentieth century Bell was the art director for the New Theater in New York. Bell wrote the introductory catalog for the inaugural exhibition of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1916. In 1917, when Langdon Warner director of the Pennsylvania Museum of Art (later Philadelphia Museum of Art), was given leave to travel to Japan for research, Bell replaced him. He concurrently held the position of Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection, left by the Philadelphia lawyer (1841-1917) to the city at his death the same year. Bell was administrator of both the collection and the Museum until his death. His principal research interest was not in the Italian renaissance art, the bulk of the Johnson collection, but Asian art; he spent much of his time compiling a catalog (never published) of oriental works of art in private in Japanese and European collections. After his death, he was succeeded at the Johnson Collection (and Philadelphia Museum) by Henri Moreau (q.v.). His brother was Charles F. Bell, the first Keeper of the Fine Art Department, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

    Selected Bibliography

    Catalogue of the Inaugural Exhibition; June 6-September 20, 1916. Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1916.


    Strehlke, Carl Brandon. Italian Paintings, 1250-1450 in the John G. Johnson Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art/Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004, p. 9, and 19, note 39; personal correspondence, Jon Whiteley, August 2009; [obituaries:] “Necrology.” The Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin 24 no. 127 (April 1929): 31; “Obituary.” New York Times March 30, 1929, p. 10.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Bell, Edward Hamilton." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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