Sir Terry Frost, R.A. (1915-2003)
Blue 1957
signed, dated and inscribed 'Blue/Jan 57. Terry Frost' (on the reverse)
oil on board
60 x 48 in. (752.5 x 722 cm.)
Private collection, UK, purchased directly from the artist in the late 1950s.
St Ives, Tate Gallery, Terry Frost, The Leeds Connection, February - May 2003, not numbered.
Sale room notice
Please note that the dimensions of the present lot are 60 x 48 in. (152.5 x 122 cm.), and not as stated in the catalogue entry.

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Lot Essay

While the title of this painting refers purely to colour, form - specifically the polygon - is of equal importance. Frost described several transformative encounters with the Yorkshire landscape which inspired the device of the pentagon or polygon that first appeared in this work in 1956. One such event involved a walk with Herbert Read near his home in Stonegrave in the Wolds, 'Herbert lent me wellingtons and we struggled through the snow, so deep it came over the tops ... the angle of the hill seemed about 45 degrees and we had to lean to walk and counter the slope. It was a clear bright day and I looked up and saw the white sun spinning on the top of black verticals. The sensation was true. I was spellbound and, of course, when I tried to look again 'it' had gone, just a sun and a copse on the brow of a hill covered in snow' (see D. Lewis, Terry Frost, Aldershot, 2000, p. 66). Painted a year later, the present work bears a close relationship to Khaki and Lemon (1956; Tate, London).

Both works use the motif to create a sense of depth, the area inside the polygon a lighter colour, suggesting a separate space beyond, while at the same time emphasising the flatness of the picture's surface with vertical lines running or dripping down. The contrast of the strong compositional structure with a freer, more animated application of paint may reflect Frost's response to other formative event which took place at this time. It was in 1956 that the artist and his contemporaries saw the first British exhibition of American Abstract Expressionism at the Tate Gallery, which could have encouraged Frost's expansive format and interest in the Sublime experience of landscape, as well as a greater appreciation of an expressive paint surface. 1956 was also the year in which Frost made several trips to Paris with Roger Hilton, meeting Pierre Soulages and perhaps most significantly the American artist, Sam Francis, whose use of dribbling paint was subsequently employed by Frost.

This new development in form and technique did not go unnoticed. Writing in 1957, Patrick Heron admired, 'In Frost's new work an overtly geometric (and somehow symbolic) form lies involved in the downward-moving rain of pigment gestures ... a broad compositional structural statement lying behind the bead-curtains of dribbles, that gives the picture that power and punch, that three-dimensional focus and concentration of space that no purely Tachist picture ever exhibits (P. Heron, 'London', Arts, vol. 32, no. 1, October 1957, p. 17).

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