The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum announces it has received the gift of all existing art by John Bell, Jr.

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum announces it has received the gift of all existing art by John Bell, Jr. that has been in the ownership of his family. The gift includes a large collection of original paintings and drawings, as well as numerous offset lithograph prints of his most popular historic scenes.

Other items include studies and sketches from the artist’s studio, as well as paint, brushes, photographs, and the model trains and horses he used as references to bring his brilliant paintings to life.

“We are thrilled and grateful to accept this wonderful gift from John Bell Jr.’s daughter, Lisa Wilson,” RAM Executive Director Louis Meluso says. “The John Bell, Jr. estate passed to her when John’s wife, Maxine, passed away in 2018.  Our goal is to display, interpret, and preserve the legacy of one of the region’s most famous artists. We’re planning exhibitions of his art in our galleries and new, interpretive educational programs so the public can access and learn about the collection.”

John Bell, Jr. (1937-2013), was an acclaimed American painter whose career spanned nearly 50 years. Bell was born and raised in the River Valley, attended Northside High School, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas. He had a profound appreciation for and deep connection to the beauty of our state and the character of its people. His historic scenes of Fort Smith, Van Buren, Eureka Springs and other locations have thrilled and endeared thousands of fans and patrons. 

In 2018, the bicentennial celebration of Fort Smith, RAM organized the exhibition ‘Fort Smith Legend, John Bell, Jr.’ It had the highest attendance of all of RAM’s exhibitions.

Bell has been quoted with this description of his love of art:

“As a child, I was shown how to draw stick figures to keep me entertained while my mother went about her chores. This sparked a fascination with the arts that has lasted throughout my lifetime and taken me through several professional careers: illustrator, product designer and fabric designer, to name a few.

“Although I have visited our country from coast to coast, I was born and raised in Arkansas. I have a keen appreciation for the beauty of our state and the character of her people; and as a result, most of my paintings consist of Arkansas scenery and turn-of-the-century Arkansas cityscapes. Old postcards, early photographs and on-site photography are part of the research into each composition. All of these elements are combined to capture a moment in time that you can almost remember, even though you may have never been there.”

RAM intends to exhibit a portion of the collection soon, but first, additional storage and exhibition accommodations must be made. In the next few weeks, RAM will offer John Bell, Jr. offset lithograph prints for sale in its Museum Store at 1601 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith, and on the RAM Museum Store online, shop.fsram.org. 



316 North 7th Street
Fort Smith, AR 72901