Artist(s): Terry Frost
Author(s): David Lewis
Year published: 2000
Publisher: Lund Humphries
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 240
Illustrations: 96 colour, 150 black & white
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This book presents the life and work of the painter Terry Frost. It is a rich and diverse mixture of his own thoughts and writings about art and life, the history of his five decades of productive work as a painter, and reflections on the particular qualities of his art.
The texts are woven together in a personal narrative by David Lewis, friend of the artist for many years and leading authority on the St Ives artists. They include Frost’s own musings, letters and poems as well as essays by the painter Adrian Heath, by David Archer on the prints, Ronnie Duncan on the years in Leeds, and Linda Saunders on the Lorca portfolio. There is also a photo-essay by Roger Mayne. The art historian Elizabeth Knowles (formerly a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery) has edited the book, which not only documents his works but also presents a vivid picture of Terry Frost as a painter and teacher. Terry Frost captures something of the full vigour of Frost’s personality, his trenchant views on art and abstraction, and its ‘scrap-book’ character both illustrates the development of his career and documents the essentials of being a painter.
Terry Frost was born in Leamington Spa in 1915 and grew up in a working-class family in the 1920s. Serving in the Commandos in the War, he was captured and spent four years as a POW. Stalag 383 was his university. Building on a natural talent for likenesses, he began to draw and paint. Repatriated and demobbed, he could not settle and, on the advice of his friend Adrian Heath, set off for St Ives and a serious attempt at art. He went to the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in the late 1940s, dividing his time between the thriving art scenes of London and St Ives and rapidly gaining the respect and admiration of both.
Terry Frost’s first one-man exhibition in London was at the Leicester Galleries in 1952. By that time he was committed to abstraction. Many strands had come together as he shed both the academicism of Camberwell’s ‘Coldstream Guards’ and the gentle pictorialism of seaside painting in favour of uncompromising new forms of art. Feeling the landscape from earth to sky with Peter Lanyon; feeling the form of rock and hollow by working with Barbara Hepworth; absorbing the lessons of Russian avant-garde art at Adrian Heath’s kitchen table; absorbing Rubens at the National Gallery and Matisse in Cork Street; by the late 1950s Frost was established as a leading figure, showing consistently in London and in the major group exhibitions of the time. His first one-man show in New York was in 1960.
In 1963 the artist moved back to the Midlands, settling in Banbury but always keeping in touch with Cornwall and London. At this time he was appointed Professor of Painting at Reading university and he taught several generations of students. From the early 1960s his position as a leading abstract painter was consolidated and his reputation as a tough but essentially sympathetic and inspiring teacher began to grow. Frost moved to Newlyn in 1974 but continued to teach at Reading. A retrospective exhibition was organised by the Arts Council in 1976 and the Mayor Gallery presented another in 1990. He has continued to show regularly and in 1992, with a wry smile, he accepted membership of the Royal Academy.