The River Valley is mourning the loss of an iconic Fort Smith painter. 76-year-old John Bell Jr. was known for his detailed paintings and is an art legend around the entire region.
“We just want people to know he really enjoyed being recognized,” said his wife, Maxine Bell.
“He really did, he got a big kick out of it.”
Bell was born and raised in Fort Smith. He had cerebral palsy and never walked a day in his life, but that didn’t stop him from selling paintings for tens of thousands of dollars across the country.
“He really didn’t need inspiration,” said Bell. “It was just in him to draw and paint.”
Maxine said they met back in 1953 when they were kids. They married in 1962 while John was studying art at the University of Arkansas.
“It’s just mind boggling that Fort Smith has accepted him so fully and helped him to gain that respect and admiration,” she said.
Bell’s wife said he spent most of his time in his studio and was a stickler for precision and detail.
“The loss of John is a true loss for our entire community,” said Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders.
“He was an amazing man, his paintings are not just pictorial, but he captured history as well. His paintings are in private and public collections all across the country.”
Family members said he probably painted more than 2,000 pieces over the course of his life and his pictures will forever be remembered.
A visitation for Bell is being held Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Ocker- Putman Funeral Home.
His funeral is Tuesday at 2 p.m.