Terry Frost, British abstract painter, defied challenging beginnings to attain remarkable success in the art world. His market peaked in 2007, solidifying his pivotal role in shaping and defining British abstraction. Frost's artistic journey is characterised by distinct periods in which he explores abstract approaches to capturing the essence of English landscapes, from Cornwall to Yorkshire and within these periods, we witness heightened competition and notable pricing.
London remains a prominent hub for Frost's market, where his most prized works have achieved figures in the upper hundreds of thousands. While his prestigious paintings remain relatively scarce, Frost's diverse body of work includes prints and multiples that regularly appear in the secondary market. Encouragingly, from 2018 to 2020, his overall market performance has shown a slight upward trend.
Red, Black, and White, Leeds (1955) marks a pivotal phase in Terry Frost's artistic journey, conceived during his time as an educator at Leeds University until 1957. This artwork serves as a visual interpretation of the Yorkshire landscape. During this period, Frost relied on vertical elements to convey the vastness of the landscape. The deliberate choice of a monochromatic palette, punctuated by vibrant red and orange tones, enhances the sense of geometric abstraction, aligning with Frost's later mature artistic style. This seamless fusion of form and colour generates a dynamic and multi-dimensional experience, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the captivating world crafted by the artist.
The groundbreaking sale of this artwork, achieving a price of £313,250 (fees included) at Sotheby's in November 2011, solidifies its position as the most expensive work ever sold by Terry Frost.
Exemplifying Terry Frost's artistic prowess during his time at Leeds is Red, Black and White (1957). This artwork serves as a product of Frost's encounters with two influential abstract painters of the time, namely Sam Francis from the United States and Pierre Soulages from France, during his international travels. Drawing inspiration from these encounters, Frost combines elements from their respective styles to create a work of distinct character.
The influence of Soulages is evident in the bold presence of thick black brushstrokes, reminiscent of the French painter's signature technique. This element adds a sense of depth and texture to the composition while also conveying a certain emotional intensity. On the other hand, Frost's engagement with Francis is reflected in the meticulously executed dripping techniques observed in the vertical elements of the artwork. These techniques not only add dynamic movement to the piece but also evoke a sense of fluidity and spontaneity.
Despite its smaller size, Red, Black and White captivates viewers with its skilful arrangement of vertical forms extending from the outermost edges. Through this deliberate composition, Frost succeeds in capturing a panoramic vista framed by the underlying structure of the landscape. It is within this abstracted framework that Frost's brilliance shines as he harmoniously merges diverse perceptions of the surroundings into a cohesive visual narrative.
In 2018, this artwork achieved substantial recognition at Sotheby's in June 2019, fetching an impressive £250,000 (fees included).
Red, Black, and White (1958) by Terry Frost is the third highest-selling artwork in his market, underscoring the enduring appeal of this series of works and their strong market demand. This particular piece, which achieved a notable sale at Sotheby's London in June 2021, commanded a price of £239,400 (fees included). Frost's signature monochromatic colour palette remains intact, with vibrant accents of red and blue incorporated into the composition. While the artwork is inherently abstract, Frost's masterful use of thick white crosshatching, complemented by the presence of vertical strands, imparts a three-dimensional quality, effectively breathing life into the visual elements that inspired its creation.
Red, Black and White, Winter (1956) also adheres to Terry Frost’s traditional colour scheme, as implied by the title. However, in this particular piece, Frost subtly incorporates a sliver of an alternative hue, deviating from his usual approach. The inspiration for these works stems from the Yorkshire landscape, and the inclusion of an additional colour is suggestively interpreted as a reference to the natural surroundings. Interestingly, a pentagonal shape emerges in multiple paintings within this series as a deliberate artistic motif. It is suggested that Frost had a transformative experience while observing the sun and the interplay of reflected colours, influencing his artistic choices.
This specific artwork fetched £216,500 (fees included) at Sotheby's in December 2007.
An additional artwork also belonging to Terry Frost's Red, Black, and White paintings, characterised by its consistent abstract colour palette and vertical divisions, Red, Black, and White (1955-1956) sold at Sotheby's in July 2007 for £204,000 (fees included), demonstrating the works enduring appeal.
Crafted in the early 1950s, Red and Black (1953) display a relatively traditional abstract style, showcasing a prominent block-based configuration positioned at the centre of the composition. The seamless integration of this central structure with a crescent curve near the upper edge of the canvas contrasts with Terry Frost's later works, which exhibit a heightened emphasis on three-dimensional spatial exploration.
Red And Black, achieved a significant sales price of £200,000 (fees included) at Christie's in January 2020.
Coastal Figure, St Ives (1952-1953) is a unique work that captures the interplay between the colours inspired by the Cornish coast of the St Ives school and the shift towards abstraction that defined Terry Frost's artistic trajectory during his time at the University of Leeds. Suggestively serving as a pilot study, this work reflects Frost's early exploration into large-scale compositions, signalling a notable transition in his artistic approach.
Pushing the boundaries of colour exploration beyond traditional hues, Terry Frost ventures into new territory with this triptych, delving into the properties of reds, yellows, and blues and their potential to produce a distinct shade of black. The canvas itself serves as a medium to accentuate Frost's fascination with the colour black, drawing inspiration from a poem penned by a prominent politician and diplomat, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583 - 1648), titled “Another Sonnet To Black Itself’’. The painting derives its name from the poem, with variations of the first four lines inscribed at the uppermost edge of the central canvas.
Sonnet To Black (1994) sold at Sotheby’s in March 2015 for £173,000 (fees included).
Yellow And Black Movement (1952), crafted in the 1950s, exemplifies Terry Frost's distinctive utilisation of pure colours. This captivating and lively artwork delves into the various tones of yellow achieved by incorporating black pigments. Frost's enduring fascination with the natural world, particularly the enigmatic influence and vitality of the sun, is evident as the painting exudes a sense of motion and dynamism with its curved, circular form and radiant pattern of rays.
Yellow and Black Movement ranks among Terry Frost's top ten highest-priced works, fetching £159,200 (fees included) at Sotheby's in December 2006.
Moon Quay (1950) is an abstract representation capturing the dynamic essence of St Ives' bustling harbour. In this artwork, as seen in many of Terry Frost's compositions, he adeptly combines geometric elements and colour relationships to create a harmonious and visually captivating arrangement devoid of any literal depictions typically associated with a harbour scene. Rather than relying on recognisable pictorial references, Frost employs geometric symbols such as concentric circles, semi-circles, and rectangles to evoke the coastline's docks, waves, and boats.
Moon Quay achieved a notable sale of £153,600 (fees included) at Christie's in November 2006.