Born in Leamington Spa, Frost's artistic career was inspired by his friendship with Adrian Heath, a fellow prisoner of war in Bavaria. After the war, with Heath's encouragement, Frost enrolled at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts and made his home in St Ives. In the late 1940s and 1950s Frost was a key figure of the vibrant artistic community of St Ives and he undertook a teaching post at the Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court (1952-54).
Frost commented in reference to a comparable painting, Grey Seascape, 1953, 'I did a lot of black and white and grey because we got a lot of that in the winter' (see exhibition catalogue, Terry Frost, London, Belgrave Gallery, 1989, no. 9). Frost's friendship with fellow artist, Peter Lanyon, encouraged him to respond directly to the Cornish landscape that they travelled through together and he commented in an interview with David Lewis, 'Peter would drive me all over the place, along the coast and up on the moors ... he taught me to experience landscape ... so you lay down in the landscape, you looked up into a tree ... you walked over the landscape so that you understood its shape, you looked behind rocks so that you knew what their shape was all the way round and what lay beyond them, you walked over the hills and the high ground so that you knew what was above and below you, and what was above and below the forms you were going to draw, and all the while you're feeling those forms all through, you're travelling through the landscape' (see C. Stephens, Terry Frost, London, 2000, p. 21).
Painted in 1952, Grey and White Seascape includes distinctive semi-circular shapes that also appear in other paintings by the artist, dating from the early 1950s, including Walk Along the Quay, 1950 (private collection, on loan to Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield). The inspiration for these shapes came from Frost's observations of boats moored in St Ives harbour: 'I never thought about it at the time, I thought of the title after I got the idea, I mean I had been walking along the quay every morning ... it was quite a simple experience. I just happened to notice that the boats were there with a different colour on when the tide was out and they were all propped up and there I saw all those semi-circles propped up on a stick ... Things were happening to my right and beneath my feet ... The strange feeling of looking on top of boats at high tide and at the same boats tied up and resting on their support posts when the tide's out' (C. Stephens, op. cit., pp. 23-5).