Sir Terry Frost, R.A.
- Sir Terry Frost, R.A.
- red, black and white, winter 1956
- signed, titled twice and dated 56 on the reverse
- oil on board
- 12 2by 95.5cm.; 48 by 37½in.
London, Arthur Tooth and Sons Ltd, Critic's Choice, September-October 1956, no.17;
Newcastle Upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery, Terry Frost: Retrospective, 1964, no.18, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, and toured by the Arts Council to York, Kingston upon Hull and Bradford;
Plymouth, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Terry Frost: Paintings, drawings and collages, 1976-1977, no.19, and toured by the Arts Council of Great Britain to Bristol, London, Chester, Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, Newlyn, Ilminster and Cheltenham;
Leeds, Leeds City Art Galleries, Herbert Read: A British Vision of World Art, November 1993-February 1994, no.81;
St Ives, Tate, Leeds Connection, 8 February-11 May 2003.
Chris Stephens, Terry Frost, Tate Publishing, London, 2000, p.39, pl.27.
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Although this painting is often entitled simply Red, Black & White in the literature on the artist, in order to avoid confusion with other works of this title, we have adopted the title Red, Black & White, Winter, 1956 under which it was originally exhibited.
The various phases of Frost's painting in the 1950s are well-documented, and the development of his art from the early St Ives works into the broader gestural manner that he adopted during his time in Leeds is a feature of virtually every piece of writing on the artist.
The institution of the Gregory Fellowships at Leeds University by E.C. 'Peter' Gregory in 1950 was a remarkably prescient piece of private patronage. The novel idea of instituting positions that would bring leading artists into the ambit of the city was remarkably successful, and was seen as a positive experience for both the artistic life of Leeds and the painting and sculpture fellows themselves. With his characteristic gusto, Frost threw himself into the position, and the cross-pollination of ideas with other institutions was responsible for awakening an interest in contemporary art in many who were later to become important supporters. In his essay 'The Leeds Connection' (published in David Lewis, op.cit., pp.62-7) one of these, Ronnie Duncan, wrote a memorable account of Frost's involvement in this, but he also identifies the very important place in the development of Frost's art that is held by Red, Black and White, Winter, 1956. Frost had responded well to the expansiveness of the Yorkshire landscape, and the characteristic colours and forms that began to appear within a relatively short time of his arrival in Leeds begin to create images that are very definitely distinct from his Cornish work. One of the most distinctive is the polygonal form that first appears in the paintings of 1956, the genesis of which Frost noted as deriving from one particular occasion:
'I drove through the snow and had lunch with Herbert Read...After lunch we went for a walk...I looked up and I saw the white sun spinning on top of a copse...now I recall that I thought I saw a naples yellow blinding circle spinning on top of black verticals. The sensation was true. I was spellbound and, of course, when I tried to look again 'it' had gone, just a sun and a copse on the brow of a hill covered in snow. I do remember my heart almost stopped at the experience and it was gone. So I came back and painted Red, Black & White 1956...' (The Artist, circa 1975, quoted in David Lewis, op.cit., p.66).
Whilst Chris Stephens highlights the fact that the development of new themes and motifs in Frost's work is actually a rather more lengthy process than perhaps this quotation suggests (Chris Stephens, op.cit., p.39), what is inescapable is that Frost himself felt that it was this painting which encapsulated this particular form and concept. Performing a function that allowed the artist to suggest receding depth within his paintings, this motif was to become a standard part of Frost's painterly vocabulary for the next few years and was considered particularly successful by his contemporaries. This new element was particularly praised by Patrick Heron, who wrote in 1957 of the way in which Frost had begun to develop the form instigated in Red, Black & White, Winter, 1956:
'In Frost's new work an overtly geometric (and somehow symbolic) form lies involved in the downward-moving rain of pigment gestures...a broad compositional structural statement lying behind the bead-curtain of dribbles, that gives the picture that power and punch, that three-dimensional focus and concentration of space that no purely Tachist picture ever exhibits' (Patrick Heron, 'London', Arts, vol.32 no.1, October 1957 p.17).
The vigour with which the present painting is executed certainly backs up the feeling of a directly transmitted idea implicit in the artist's own writing, and there are virtually no passages of reworking. The balance and impact of the areas of colour carry a great deal of power against the stark network of black and white, each seemingly having a presence greater than the actual area of pigment might suggest, and the rough, dry texture of the paint is still redolent of the crisp snowy landscape that inspired it.