1915 - 2003
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 liknensses, 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 began to teach at Reading University, later becoming Professor of Painting. 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 continued to show regularly, and in 1992 with a wry smile, he accepted membership of the Royal Academy. He was knighted in 1996, and died in 2003.