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Sir Terry Frost became the leading light of the British abstract art movement in the 20th century after a move to West Cornwall. Originally born in Warwickshire in 1915, Frost did not become an artist until his 30’s. Having left school at 14 to work in a bicycle shop, he served in the commandos in World War II and was captured whilst in Crete in 1941 and sent to various concentration camps. Whilst he was a prisoner of war in Stalag 383 in Bavaria, he met the artist Adrian Heath - a Slate School of Art trained painter who was serving in the RAF as a gunner on the Lancaster Bombers. Heath encouraged Frost to take painting seriously, after seeing Frost’s paintings of fellow prisoners on hessian pillowcases. As time progressed, Heath began to teach Frost how to paint in the camp and was delighted at his natural ability. Frost links this four year experience to the very heart of his work “In POW camps, I had a tremendous spiritual experience, a more aware or heightened perception during starvation, and I honestly do not think that awakening has ever left me.”
After the end of the war, Frost decided to study art and went to Birmingham School of Art, but quickly saw that the burgeoning modern art scene was in London so went to Camberwell School of Art - by which time the latest group of artists, Adrian Heath included, had decided that St Ives, West Cornwall was the place to paint. Frost studied for a year at the famous St Ives School of Art and began to spread himself between London and Cornwall. He was influenced by studying under Victor Pasmore, a pioneer of the Abstract Art movement and Ben Nicholson, himself associated with the St Ives art scene. In 1949 Frost produced his first abstract work - the genre for which he would forever be known for. Frost settled in Cornwall during the 50’s, becoming an assistant to the sculptor Barbara Hepworth alongside the artist Roger Hilton. By the late 50’s Frost was already established as a leading figure in the abstract art movement, exhibiting regularly in London and across the globe. After meeting the main American Abstract Expressionists in 1960 in his solo show in New York, Frost began painting on a much larger scale and continued to teach art in various top institutions.
Frost’s work takes in the essence of the St Ives area, the evocative and unique colours of the sea and sky in that isolated corner of England punctuated by the angular grey shapes of fishing cottages and slate roofs, bobbing blue circles of boats and the bright red sun. But his abstract work also removes us from any physical association to simply the expression of joy, through his voluptuous rounds, blocks of bright colour and floating primal shapes. A notion of happiness that perhaps only a person once deprived of freedom can properly express. Terry Frost was knighted in 1998. “If you know before you look, you can't see for knowing.” - Terry Frost