Terry Frost 1915-2003


Collection of the artist
The Estate of Terry Frost
Private Collection, UK


2005, London, Osborne Samuel, Nine Abstract Artists Revisited: Robert Adams, Terry Frost, Adrian Heath, Anthony Hill, Roger Hilton, Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Victor Pasmore, William Scott, 10 March - 9 April 2005, unnumbered
Green and Straw is an abstract painting that alludes to the mood and horizons of a landscape. Terry Frost started to develop this practice after he settled in St Ives in 1946, responding to the landscape with suggestive outlines and a non-representational vocabulary that was distinctively his own. In 1954, he was made a Gregory Fellow in painting at Leeds University, one of several fellowships in the creative arts endowed by the publisher Eric Gregory with the intention of supporting modernist cultural activity. Frost remained in Yorkshire for three years, staying on to teach at Leeds School of Art after the fellowship in 1956. It was during this period that Frost made Green and Straw.

During his time in Yorkshire, Frost developed a distinctive, allusive style that was closely related to the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales near Leeds. The composition of the painting is structured vertically, with the picture plane divided by longitudinal parallel lines. There is a hint of mischief in Frost’s decision to suggest a landscape while eschewing the ‘landscape’ format, though this ‘portrait’ format later became characteristic of his work over the next few decades of his career. The painting also incorporates a subtle counter-rhythm to its strongly vertical organisation, and Frost has brushed his verticals with short, thick horizontal strokes. This contributes a lively element of surface interest to the work and demonstrates the artist’s nuanced attitude towards design, with the painting integrating different emphases of direction within its vertical structure.

Another work from this period, Winter Landscape (1955, British Council Collection), shows the formal, landscape-oriented traits that Frost was developing at this time. Both works use the same compositional structure, with the picture surfaces being arranged around longitudinal parallel lines. As in Green and Straw, Winter Landscape uses soft crescent shapes spanning the breadth of the work, which suggest the gentle lines of the local scenery. In contrast to Winter Landscape, Green and Straw is a more focused translation of the Wolds landscape, with its single horizon line.

The relationship that Frost established between his work of art and the landscape was subtle and sophisticated. Speaking in relation to one of his Cornish landscapes just a year before he painted Green and Straw, Frost said: ‘The subject-matter is in fact the sensation evoked by the movements and the colour in the harbour. What I have painted is an arrangement of form and colour which evokes for me a similar feeling.’ (L. Alloway. ed. 1954. Nine Abstract Artists, their work and theory. London: Tiranti.) In the same way with Green and Straw, Frost has taken his experience of the Yorkshire Wolds, and made with it a painting of refined formal values.