Terry Frost was born in the town local to the University of Warwick and lived there until he joined the Army during the Second World War. He met the painter Adrian Heath in a POW camp in Bavaria, and under his guidance, Frost began his first experiments with the visual arts. After the war, he continued his artistic education at the Birmingham College of Art and the Camberwell School of Art where he studied with Victor Pasmore. He later worked with Pasmore at the University of Newcastle and taught at Bath Academy, San Jose University California and was Gregory Fellow at Leeds University. From 1964 to 1981 he taught at Reading University, becoming Professor in 1977.
His early work was figurative and featured the people and places around him in London after the war. In 1949 he turned to abstraction. The Russian artists Malevich and Lissitsky, exponents of ‘Suprematism’, were important influences for his early experiments. In particular, the red and black of Lissitsky provided Frost with a life long interest in the dynamics between these two colours as well as between form and space within the flat pictorial surface of the canvas. In common with other young artists of his generation, Terry Frost visited the USA in the 1960s to meet the artists engaged in abstract painting. As formative as their concerns was their use of acrylic paint, a medium that allowed large areas of flat colour, unmodulated by brushwork, to be created across the canvas.
Terry Frost’s fascination with Cornish coastal scenery is a dominant thread that runs through his work from the 1950s. His friendships with Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, central figures in the dynamic St Ives’ art scene at the time, extended his initial interest in Cornwall, sparked by the unusual light and intense colours of its environment. Consequently, Frost has come to be seen as a major proponent of the St Ives’ aesthetic; his fluid abstract formations evoking, rather than depicting, the Cornish seascape. Dynamic, contrasting primary colours interact spatially to suggest rhythmic heaving waves and the rocking, tilting motion of fishing boats. Energetic and playful, Frost’s work nonetheless evokes a powerful emotional response in the viewer.