Lot 35
  • 35

Sir Terry Frost, R.A.

Estimate
150,000 - 250,000 GBP
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Description

  • Sir Terry Frost, R.A.
  • Red, Black and White, Leeds, 1955
  • oil on board
  • 122 by 196cm.; 48 by 77┬╝in.

Provenance

Acquired directly from the Artist by T. L. Johnson in the early 1960s

Exhibited

London, Leicester Galleries, Terry Frost, 1956 (possibly);
London, Tate Gallery, 54:64 Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, 1964, cat. no.199, illustrated p.167;
Arts Council and South West Arts, Terry Frost: Paintings, Drawings and Collages, 1976-7, cat. no.18, illustrated p.8, with tour to  Plymouth City Art Gallery, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, Serpentine Gallery, London, Chester Arts Centre, Chester, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, Leeds City Art Gallery, and Birmingham City Art Gallery;
London, The Tate Gallery, St Ives 1939-63, 13th February - 14th April 1985, cat. no.165, with tour to Japan, 1989, cat. no.8;
London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Terry Frost: Six Decades, 12th October - 12th November 2000, cat. no.13, illustrated;
St Ives, Tate, Terry FrostThe Leeds Connection, 8th February - 11th May 2003, illustrated on the cover of the exhibition brochure.

Literature

Terry Frost: Retrospective Exhibition, Newcastle upon Tyne, The Laing Art Gallery, The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1964, illustrated opposite the foreword;
Terry Frost: Paintings 1948-89, The Mayor Gallery, London, 14th March - 19th April 1990, illustrated p.4;
David Lewis, Terry Frost, Scholar Press, Aldershot, 1994, illustrated p.63;
David Lewis, St Ives 1939-64, Tate Gallery Publishing, London, 1996, cat. no.165, illustrated p.201; 
Chris Stephens, Terry Frost, Tate Gallery Publishing, London, 2000, p.37, illustrated.

Condition

The board is very slightly bowed but is otherwise sound. There is an old minor spot of paint loss corresponding to a nail in the upper right corner, a small spot of paint loss in the lower left corner and a few small surface abrasions in places along the lower edge, with specks of old resultant paint loss. Near the centre of the lower edge there is some minor craquelure, only visible upon close inspection, and two small areas of staining. There appear to be a few old spots of paint loss to the vertical black strip of paint along the upper edge, fifth one from the left, and a spot of flaking paint to the sixth one. In between the two there is some minor craquelure, only visible upon very close inspection. The surface is slightly dirty and may benefit from a light clean. Otherwise the work appears in good original condition. Under ultraviolet light there appear to be two or three minor spots of retouching in the grey-green pigment along the left side of the lower edge, which corresponds to the aforementioned surface abrasions along the lower edge. Held in a simple wooden slip frame. Please contact the department on 0207 293 6424 if you have any questions about the present work.
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Catalogue Note

One of the most important works by Frost to appear at auction, Red, Black and White, Leeds, 1955 encapsulates the artist's ability to bring together the differing strands of thought on the development of abstraction into a manner that is quite unlike that of any of his contemporaries yet still feels remarkably fresh and vibrant almost sixty years after its creation.

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, 1994, op.cit., pp.62-7) one of these supporters, Ronnie Duncan, wrote a memorable account of Frost's involvement in this artistic environment, but he also identifies the very important place in the development of Frost's art that is held by the paintings of this period. 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. Within a relatively short time of his arrival in Leeds, Frost realised that his work was reacting to the Yorkshire landscape in a very different way from that of Cornwall, and both the forms and the palette of these paintings show significant development from the earlier works. His sense of being much more involved and dwarfed by a landscape began to become evident and the compositions take on a much more panoramic feel. Red, Black and White, Leeds, 1955 is perhaps the best-known example of a group of important paintings that mark this new period of inspiration. The intricate interlocking forms of the St Ives paintings have become much less the central element of the composition and shifted to the edges of the image, being replaced by a pronounced vertical emphasis, which may derive from the patterns of stone walls running along hillside fields. Frost's excitement at his new environment is clear in his letters and recollections of the period:

'Being in a vast cape of white and cold but brilliant space, the sharp air and smooth folds of white snow resting on fields, hanging on black lines... walking was good because I went down and the white came up all around and yet it never touched me, so I was a black thing in a funnel of white with no space that I knew. I could not touch the sides, the space and silence went with me as I walked, and I was so small' (Interview with David Lewis, July 1993, in David Lewis, Terry Frost, Scholar Press, Aldershot 1994, pp.73-76).

The clarity of vision and the vigour with which the present painting is executed certainly express artist's feelings and ideas which are transmitted directly to the painting. Considering the scale and ambition of Red, Black and White, Leeds, 1955 it is remarkable to see that 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, and show Frost pulling together his undoubted understanding of colour together with an inspirational new world to create a painting of great force and impact.