PRESS RELEASE - August 25, 2003: SOUTHOLD, NY. The Southold Historical Society is proud to announce the upcoming exhibition of the drawings of prominent “Peconic School” painter Thomas “Tom” Currie-Bell (1873-1946). This is the first time the works selected for this exhibition have ever been displayed to the public.
Born in Scotland, Thomas Currie-Bell was raised in the community of Landsdale Terrace in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family was a prominent one, his father being a successful leather merchant who owned large real estate holdings in Edinburgh. As a child, Tom lived in the family residence; a three story stone mansion named “Braid View,” which was built by his father in 1874.
Tom was a talented child, producing his first work at the age of seven. He would later train at the best institutions in Britain, including The Royal Institute of Art (Edinburgh, The Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh), and The Royal College of Art (London). Tom taught at the Royal Institute of Art from 1912 through 1918 and became a well known portrait painter to Scottish high society.
During the summer months, the Currie-Bell family would spend their holidays in northern France. Here Tom indulged his passion, and painted colorful, impressionistic scenes of the area. The villages of Concarneau, Caudebec, and the coastline of northern France were popular subjects in his early works.
In 1919 Tom’s wife, Charlotte Emily Jacobsen, died, probably due to the great Influenza Pandemic that would eventually kill tens of millions of people around the world. Tom, now widowed, spent much of his time between living with his sister in London and painting in France.
In 1928 Tom met Ann Hallock, a native of Southold, while she was on a trip to Europe. Following a brief courtship, the two were married in 1929 and spent the rest of their lives in Southold, New York. Tom began painting portraits of society in America after his arrival, and continued to work until shortly before his death in 1946.
Currie-Bell was undoubtedly at his best when he was drawing. The quality of his sketch work and preparatory drawings, both in chalk and pencil, was outstanding and won him many awards. The majority of this work dates to his earlier years, though he did continue to sketch throughout the rest of his life.
A special selection of his drawings, dating from the late 19th century through the 1940’s, are the focus of the current exhibition. They include several nudes, portraits, and book illustrations. “People tend to forget,” commented Geoffrey Fleming, Director of the Society, “that Thomas Currie-Bell was one of the best academically trained painters working in Southold during the first half of the 20th century.”
Included in this show are large drawings, done on brown paper in black chalk highlighted with white chalk. These drawings, many of which were used to develop the artist’s skills in anatomy and as a draftsman, show Tom’s propensity for drawing. An exceptionally detailed chalk drawing of a male nude, is perhaps the best piece on display in the gallery. “The detail work is so astounding one would think they are staring at a photograph and not a drawing at all,” stated Fleming.
Other features of the exhibition include two color pastels created on the Currie-Bell’s honeymoon in Canada in 1929. They depict Tom and Ann, both hard at work; Tom making sketches of local scenery, and Ann writing letters to family and friends back in Southold.
The smallest item featured is perhaps the most telling of Tom’s ability. It is a small drawing of a singing “putto,” created one afternoon by Tom in his old sketchbook. It was such a wonderful discovery in the Society’s collection that it was decided to use an image of the drawing for the invitation and the program for the exhibition.
The exhibition of Tom’s drawings and sketches will be on display in the Summer Gallery of the Ann Currie-Bell House. The house is located at the corner of Maple Lane and Main Road and the exhibition will run from September 13th through October 12th, 2003. The gallery is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, from 1-4 pm and by special appointment.
(For a print quality image of one of the drawings in the exhibition, please contact the Society at (631) 765-5500.)