Terry Frost arrived in Cornwall in 1946, staying in a caravan at Cabris Bay and then a house on Quay Street, St. Ives, before returning to London and the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in 1947. He re-visited Cornwall over the next few summers before settling in St Ives in 1950. Barbara Hepworth gave him a job as her assistant at this point, alongside fellow artists Denis Mitchell and John Wells, offering him a steady income and structured working week. It was around this period that Frost began his series of paintings of the quayside. David Lewis, art historian and Barns-Graham’s husband, commented:
"[These] paintings were definitely beginnings for Frost. Boat shapes, masts, riggings, water, sky, rippling, all became free compositional elements of mass, lie, colour, texture and movement rocking to and fro ... because the boats are never still, never static, and so you’ve got this terrific sort of up and down motion, this leaning over that."
When Ben Nicholson first saw works from this series, he exclaimed ‘you’ve got on to something that can last you for the rest of your life’ and it remains true that these shapes were to recur in Frost’s work throughout his career, even as his choice of colour grew bolder and compositions more abstract.
Grey, Black and White feels completely abstract at first glance but with further consideration, the overlapping elements emerge to reveal a quayside scene. Frost remains preoccupied with form and texture, restricting his colour palette to focus on depth and volume. The resulting composition is quintessentially mid-century and St. Ives, as well as a microcosm of Frost’s wider artistic considerations of the period.
We were delighted to present Grey, Black and White in our White Glove October 2021 auction of The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Collection together with other works by Frost, including UNTITLED, 1962 (Lot 42), UNTITLED (CELEBRATION), 1989 (Lot 57), UNTITLED, 1988 (Lot 58).
The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Collection was shown alongside our Autumn 2021 edition of the bi-annual MODERN MADE auction at The Mall Galleries in London.