Frederick Paul Gell (1918-1996) was born in Manchester. At the age of 16, he was mixing with artists like Lowry but any ideas of an artistic profession were placed firmly on hold whilst he worked as a traffic controller in the Royal Air Force. He enrolled as a mature student at the Academy of Bath and graduated in 1951.
In the 1950s, he worked as part of a design team for Cunard, being responsible for the interiors of cruise liners that became so popular after the Second World War. Gell then immediately put his knowledge to use and became Assistant Art Director for the Midlands Area of the Arts Council. After three years he moved to London and started painting in oils and acrylics. He was entirely self-taught but soon found himself on the register for the Council of Interior Design, winning many contracts for ship interiors, and work for companies such as Heals. Commissions from his portfolio include a penthouse for Browns of Chester, The British Pavilions in Johannesburg and the British Stand at the International Fair in Stockholm which was commented on by the King of Sweden ‘...could not possibly have been designed by an Englishman’.
In 1978 he moved from London to Plymouth. He purchased Mount Stone House, which had spectacular views over Plymouth Sound and the mouth of the Tamar, and a sheltered walled garden which fed his lifelong love of flowers. At this point he turned to watercolour. Gell appreciated its qualities which enabled him to make shapes without abrupt edges or hard lines, allowing his subject also to melt into the space surrounding it. Unusually, Gell would work directly in watercolour, never creating preliminary drawings or working with any lines to ensure fluidity. This method was highly unusual in orthodox European watercolour techniques and closer to the style of Chinese and Japanese artists’ work. His work was unusually large in scale, bright and imposing. In 1983 he wrote the book ‘Flowers from a Painter’s Garden’ – the Watercolours of Paul Gell, with associated exhibitions in London, Bath and New York.