Commissioned as part of the House’s effort to acquire oil portraits for each former Speaker, the John Bell portrait was acquired in 1911. Willie Betty Newman, who received the commission, was based in Bell’s home state of Tennessee, but had spent 12 years in France earlier in her career. Bell has been described by biographers as “dignified to the point of aloofness,” a characteristic that Newman captures in the stoic, almost confrontational pose in which she depicts Bell.
History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “John Bell,” https://history.house.gov/Collection/Listing/2005/2005-016-012/ (May 29, 2020)
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