Clive Bell was born on 16 September 1881 at East Shefford, son of William Heward Bell and his wife Hannah, née Cory. He attended Marlborough College and was admitted to Trinity College Cambridge in October 1899. Here he studied History, gaining a second class in both parts of the Tripos and graduating BA in 1902. During a research trip to Paris in 1904 he spent most of his time studying the art of the French capital and later under the influence of Roger Fry developed a career as an art critic. In 1914 he published his most famous work, ‘Art’, and from 1913 to 1944 produced a string of journal articles and exhibition reviews that were later gathered in a series of compilations. Later he was to produce a volume of short biographies of his British and French contemporaries – ‘Old Friends’ published in 1956.
Centred on the Bloomsbury Group, Bell’s personal life was complex. In 1907 he married Vanessa Stephen, with whom he had two sons, Julian and Quentin, but Bell’s flirtation with his sister-in law Virginia (later Woolf) saw the marriage decline to a state of mere friendship and allowed Bell to have a series of affairs while his wife lived with Duncan Grant. After WWII he moved into Charleston to join Vanessa and Duncan Grant there.
Bell died on 17 September 1964.