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Louisiana State Artist Laureate

Johnny O. Bell

Louisiana State Artist Laureate: Johnny O. Bell

Adopted in 1952

For his contribution to the state of Louisiana and in recognition of his exceptional artistic achievements, Johnny F. Bell was named State Artist Laureate by Governor Murphy J. "Mike"Foster in 1952

Bell is best known for his mural art. Beginning in the 17th century, vividly colored oils on canvas, such as those used in "Louisiana" the official state painting, became characteristic of mural paintings.

Louisiana State Artist Laureate: Johnny O. Bell

Johnny O. Bell contribution to the state and in recognition of his exceptional artistic achievements, Johnny O. Bell was named Honorary State Artist Laureate by Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster two years after the completed work "Louisiana," was declared the Official State Painting.

Johnny O. Bell applied his artistic talent to the trades of diesinker and toolmaker, and became a renowned commercial artist. Raised in Michigan, the Westfield, Massachusetts, native was commissioned to do works of art throughout the United Sates.

During World Was II, his talents, layout and spatial design, caught the attention of US Army officials. He became the "artist in residence" in his company.

After his military discharge in 1943, Bell married Margaret Thompson and the couple settled in Kosciusko, Mississippi where he opened a sign company. In 1955, the Bells and their three children relocated to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he founded Bell Advertising and Murals.

Bell is best known for his mural art. Beginning in the 17th century, vividly colored oils on canvas, such as those used in "Louisiana" the official state painting, became characteristic of mural paintings.

Johnny F. Bell

Johnny F. Bell is one of three children born to Johnny O. and Margaret Thompson Bell. Born in Wynona, Mississippi, in 1944 he began exhibiting a natural inclination toward the arts at an early age. By age six, Johnny F. Bell was a student of the arts, taking lessons from his father on a regular basis.

When the younger Bell was able, he began spending his spare time working in the lettering and mural business founded by his father. When Bell graduated from high school in 1963, he had by his own rights reached a high level of accomplishment in the arts. He entered Louisiana State College in Pineville as an art major and married Paulette Capitano Dawson in 1964.

Although Johnny F. Bell studied new techniques and styles and worked in various artistic media, he preferred to express himself through the art of mural painting and portraiture learned from his mentor and father. So expertly had he mastered the techniques shown to him that his work, on occasion, was mistaken for that of his father. The elder Bell himself admitted that he has come across one of this son's works, mistook it for one of his own and wondered that he could not remember painting it.

The similarities in their styles and techniques extended to their dream of creating a single oil work on canvas to represent their beloved state of Louisiana. It took twenty-three years from the time they began collaborating on the work until "Louisiana"was named the Official State Painting, but they never gave up the dream. Johnny f. Bell and his father were able to work interchangeably on the canvas and, to signify that the two artists had successfully merged their talents, they put their names to the finished work on a single signature line: the son's middle initial contained within that of his father's.

"Louisiana"won the hearts, and the votes, of the state's senators and representatives. After passing through both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Governor Edwin W. Edwards supported the choice for the first Official State Painting in America by signing Act 981 on June 29, 1995.

Johnny F. Bell continues to work closely with his father and support the family trade. He is highly regarded for his own artistic abilities and has been commissioned throughout the United States to complete works of art for both the private and public sectors.

For his contribution to the state of Louisiana and in recognition of his exceptional artistic achievements, Johnny F. Bell was named State Artist Laureate by Governor Murphy J. "Mike"Foster.

Louisiana Laws

The law designating the State artist laureate is found in the Louisiana Statutes, Title 49, Section RS 49:157

TITLE 49 State administration :: RS 49:§157. State artist laureate

Louisiana Legislature Archives
§157.  State artist laureate
The governor is authorized to appoint an artist laureate for the State of Louisiana, who shall serve during the term of office of the appointing governor.  
Said appointee shall be a citizen of this state and shall serve under the provisions of this section without remuneration of any kind whatsoever.
Acts 1952, No. 14, §1, 2.

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