Sheila Fell was born in Cumberland and, although she spent most of her life in London, it was the Cumbrian landscape that remained her chief inspiration and subject matter. At the age of sixteen, she enrolled in the Carlisle School of Art and followed this with studies in St Martins School of Art, from 1949 to 1951. She had her first exhibition at the age of twenty-four, becoming the youngest ever artist to exhibit at the Beaux Arts Gallery, where she later held another four exhibitions. This exhibition brought her success and also brought her to the attention of TS Lowry, with whom she became close friends. In 1957 she was a prize-winner at the biennial John Moores Exhibition in Liverpool and she had her second exhibition in the Beaux Arts Gallery and began teaching at the Chelsea School of Art the following year. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s she exhibited in several galleries including Middlesbrough Art Gallery and the Royal Academy and Melvyn Bragg made a television film about here. She also took part in the Royal Academy exhibiton, British Painting, 1952-77, and she exhibited for the last time in 1979, at the New Grafton Gallery in London.
Fell received an Austin Abbey award in 1970 and she was also elected Royal Academician four years later. Although she sometimes worked in watercolour, Fell’s paintings mostly use powerful and melancholy oil paint to depict landscapes presided over by brooding mountains and dark looming clouds. She was influenced by Cézanne and Van Gogh and although she produces some portraits, her main subject matter was the rural north Cumberland. Her work is represented in various collections such the Tate, the Royal Academy and the Arts Council collection.