Bell was a Depression-era "ash can" painter like Reginald Marsh or John Sloane. He clearly loved New York: the El, the ferries, the sidewalk fruit stands.
He's also one of America's greatest erotic artists. The sensuality of some of his subjects - always fully clothed and in public - seemed to echo the sensuality of the physical city all around them. He seemed to see the city as a labor of love by the people who built it.
He was great at mood pieces. It must have been wonderful to go to the city acquarium and take in all the big ugly fish, the institutional green walls and unvarnished wooden floors, the enthusiastic kids and the heroic mothers who tended them