Discover A Vital Spirit in Grasmere

Ophelia Gordon Bell at Art School 'The Good Shepherd' by Ophelia Gordon Bell c1961 Ophelia Gordon Bell working on a sculpture 'Thought' by Ophelia Gordon Bell, 1958 Ophelia Gordon Bell & William Heaton Cooper in her studio Ophelia Gordon Bell as a toddler in Windermere

Introducing a major new exhibition at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere, showcasing the work of the accomplished sculptor, Ophelia Gordon Bell.

The new exhibition, A Vital Spirit, focuses attention on the extraordinary artistic talent of Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915 – 1975) who is also widely known as the wife of landscape painter William Heaton Cooper.

Ophelia was born in London, the daughter of Winifred Gordon Bell, a renowned animal painter, and grew up among the artists of St John’s Wood in London, but she was equally at home in the Lake District where her maternal grandfather was vicar of Urswick near Ulverston.

Artistically trained in London, she exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, and the Royal Scottish Academy. Today her work can be found throughout Britain, from a carving of St Bede at a Carlisle church to the giant stone figures, ‘Thought’ and ‘Action’, outside the Risley HQ of the former Atomic Energy Authority in Lancashire.

One of her early works – which remains one of her most famous – was The Dalesman, made in her London studio from her memories of a man coming down the Lakeland fells to a farm. She created many pieces portraying the characters of the Lakeland fells – shepherds and farmers and houndtrailers, alongside widely celebrated works such as the bronze head of mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary.

It was during a visit to the Lakes that Ophelia met William Heaton Cooper. They married and made their home in Grasmere and had four children. One of her sons, the painter Julian Cooper, is curating this new exhibition.

She was truly a vital spirit…

Everyone who met Ophelia was struck by her. Even if they did not know of her artistic skill, they were witnesses to her great vitality and kindness. She was a most remarkable woman, bringing together the two enormously contrasting worlds of London and the Lakes, and bringing immense vitality to everything she created.
– Julian Cooper

A Vital Spirit features examples of Ophelia Gordon Bell’s work as a student, as well as her industrial and religious commissions and portrait heads.

The Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere was opened by William Heaton Cooper in 1938. It features work by the Heaton Cooper family and guest artists, with the Lakeland landscape at the heart of the gallery’s displays.

A Vital Spirit: the work of Ophelia Gordon Bell opens at Grasmere’s Heaton Cooper Studio on May 18 and runs until late autumn.

To enjoy this cultural event and much more, book your break in the Lake District here