Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith was born in 1846 in England. He emigrated to Canada in 1866. While still in England studied at the South Kensington Art School. Once arriving in Canada he worked as an artist and photographer in Montréal until 1871, he then moved to Toronto.
During the Great War, Bell-Smith painted the activities of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in training at Camp Borden, Ontario, and executed a relief map model of the Rockies for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s he sketched, painted, and taught art classes in Toronto, Hamilton, and London, Ontario. He also did some freelance illustrating for a variety of publications.
In 1880 he joined the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and was appointed academician six years later. He was also a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artist. In the early 1980's Bell-Smith became increasingly successful and was able to make a living wholly from painting. Along with his traditonal landscapes, he also painted many cityscapes and portraits, he painted Queen Victoria.
In 1886 Bell-Smith seized the opportunity to paint the Canadian Rockies when the Vice-President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, William Cornelius Van Horne, offered free travel passes to several artists who would sketch and paint views of the Canadian landscapes. The CPR wanted artistic works that would heighten public interest in transcontinental travel. His paintings became popular in both eastern Canada and Britain, he frequently returned to the west to work.
He died in 1923.