William Rowell’s Auntie Bella was displayed in the Twenty Painters exhibition in Melbourne in 1921, and attracted much admiration by visitors, amongst them, Mayor Alderman Hitchcock. This work was so highly regarded that Mayor Hitchcock helped to acquire it for Geelong Gallery.
In addition to Hitchcock’s personal contribution, several Geelong Art Gallery Association members and supporters financially aided the purchase of the painting, holding a concert to raise additional funds.
The figure in the image is a woman called Arabella Stuart, born in 1859 at Saltwater River in Tasmania, growing up in Parkdale, Melbourne. For many years Stuart's house was a common gathering place for artists, and it is thought that Rowell was one of these artists.