After his time in Yorkshire as Gregory Fellow at Leeds University, Frost had returned to St.Ives in 1957 at a time when the international reputations of many of his friends and contemporaries were being forged, Frost included, making the small Cornish town one of the leading centres of avant-garde art in Britain. In 1959 he had joined the Waddington Galleries and was included in the May 1959 ‘Middle Generation’ exhibition along with Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton and Bryan Wynter.
The new expansiveness of his work in the last years of the decade was notable, and demonstrates an awareness of current trends in American Art. However, whilst acknowledging the work of the Americans, and being much emboldened by their example, the confidence that was engendered by a string of successful solo exhibitions in New York in the late 1950s gave the St.Ives’ painters an approach to their work which never became one of slavish imitation. In the present work, and a number of related paintings of the 1959-1960 period, Frost began to drastically simplify his canvases, reducing the palette to an almost monochrome level, heightened by the deft application of small sections of vivid colour.
A number of the artists in Frost’s circle were experimenting from the mid-1950’s with ways of introducing elements of the figure into their otherwise abstracted paintings, perhaps most notably Scott, whose works throughout the decade had continually experimented with using motifs that either implicitly or explicitly give the viewer figural references. Of those closest to Frost, it was his great friend Roger Hilton who had perhaps combined the two elements most successfully, and in paintings such as Grey Figure, February 1957 (Coll. Southampton City Art Gallery), Hilton had introduced clear body references. However most contemporary critics tended to ignore them, concentrating on form rather than content, and it was not until the much more obviously figure-influenced paintingsof the early 1960’s that the content became unmissable. Frost’s own works tended to make less specific references to the female body than Hilton’s, but the introduction of the v-shaped wedge form in the paintings of 1959 and 1960 has been identified by the artist as a device which allowed him to both ‘tighten’ a composition, but to bring in allusions to the female figure.
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