Bell, Jonathan Anderson (DNB00)

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BELL, JONATHAN ANDERSON (d. 1865), architect, second son of James Bell, advocate, was born in Glasgow and educated at Edinburgh University. The best account of him is preserved in a volume of poems printed privately and posthumously in 1865. He showed, we there learn, an early fondness for art, and in the study of it spent the greater part of 1829 and 1830 in Rome. Returning, he decided to become an architect. He served his articles and remained for some years afterwards in the office of Messrs. Rickman & Hutchison of Birmingham. Mr. Rickman is well known as a prime mover in the English Gothic revival; Bell was his favourite pupil, and became his intimate friend.

As a result of this education and companionship, Bell acquired a remarkable knowledge of Gothic architecture. He was a correct and elegant draughtsman. Thirty of the engravings in Le Keux's 'Memorials of Cambridge' are from his drawings. His 'Dryburgh Abbey,' engraved by William Miller, is no less remarkable. For about twenty-seven years he practised as an architect in Edinburgh. 'His larger works were not numerous, but they are of great merit and evince refined taste. The country houses he erected were always justly admired. The extensive range of premises in Glasgow, known by the name of Victoria Buildings, which he designed for Mr. Archibald Orr Ewing . . . . exhibit a very pure specimen of Scotch Gothic, finely adapted to commercial purposes, and form one of the most imposing elevations in the city.' Bell was a member of the Institute of Scottish Architects. In 1839 he was appointed secretary to the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland. He was nominated for the office by the late Professor Wilson, and retained it until his death. In the printed reports of that society will be found graceful and sufficient tributes to the abilities and the zeal of its secretary. He was one of the leading witnesses examined by the select committee appointed to inquire into the subject of art unions. He was secretary also to the committee concerned with the direction of the Edinburgh Wellington Testimonial.

Bell had not only 'a learned knowledge of art all it a departments, but was himself a cultivated artist. . . . His water-colour drawings are of a high order of excellence and are finished with the greatest delicacy.' His poems were printed only for private circulation, 'in the belief that they possessed much originality and beauty.' He died, in his fifty-sixth year, on 28 Feb. 1865.

[Bell's Poems, printed 'in memoriam' and not for publication, 1865; Proceedings of the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland; Scotsman, 2 March 1865.]

E. R.