She began her studies at the Athens School of Fine Arts with Thomas Thomopoulos and on scholarship from the Averoff Estate continued at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris with Antoine Bourdelle (1927-1930). At the same time, she attended courses at Dimitris Galanis’s workshop. She returned to Athens in 1930 and became member of “Omada Techni” [Art Group]. She travelled in Italy, Germany, UK and Balkan countries and in 1945 settled in Paris.
She began her exhibition activity in 1930 with a solo exhibition at the Stratigopoulos Gallery, followed by solo exhibitions in Greece and other countries; in 1980, a retrospective exhibition of her work was organised at the National Gallery in Athens. She also showed her work in group exhibitions in Greece and abroad, including the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon de la Jeune Sculpture in Paris, exhibitions with “Omada Techni”, the Venice Biennale (1934 and 1940), the Paris International Exhibition (1937) and Panhellenic exhibitions.
Bella Raftopoulou’s artistic development took a path towards abstract formulations, without, however, completely rejecting visual reality. Working mainly in stone, which she carved directly, she focused on the female figure as well as animals and birds. In her earliest works, the realistic approach reflected what she had learned from her professor and, in certain cases, even Rodin; a curvilinear approach and frontality are characteristic in her works. Her style progressively became more abstract and her forms more stylised, the background became limited and pronounced curvatures gave way to geometric and organic elements of a flat treatment, which added an architectural quality to her work. Apart from large-scale sculptures in stone, she also created small, abstract, expressionistic works in bronze and lead on a slate pedestal or background on subjects inspired by Greek mythology; also medals. She became especially involved with engraving, primarily wood printing, which echo the style of her sculptural work; during 1925-1927, she collaborated with the Sikelianos couple in their Delphic Festival, designing costumes and choreography, inspired by ancient Greek pottery images.