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Sir Terry Frost - Manitou

Sir Terry Frost


Oil on canvas: 36(h) x 60(w) in / 91.4(h) x 152.4(w) cm
Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: Manitou Terry Frost '97

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Leamington Spa 1915 - 2003 Cornwall

Ref: BZ 195




Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: Manitou Terry Frost '97

Oil on canvas: 36 x 60 in / 91.4 x 152.4 cm

Frame Size: 38 x 62 in / 96.5 x 157.5 cm





Private collection, acquired directly from the artist’s studio in the late 1990s

Private collection, UK



Manitou, meaning spirit, deity or object of supernatural power, was one of Frost’s middle names and seems to embody the artist’s reverence for bold colour and dynamic form. In later years Frost frequently celebrated the radiance of the Cornish and Mediterranean sun, suggested by the cropped and collaged spheres in the present work, joyfully bouncing or rebounding from the large red, black and white spiral, which spins against a soft pink ground. The mesmerizing black circle bounded in red and then white, like an eclipse, is given both depth and projection by its layered form as it appears to dip beneath the horizon, echoing the power and movement of the spiral. Beneath this mesmeric sun, a large black, oblique form, like the prow of a ship, is also making waves, its linear echoes reverberating out to the edge of the canvas. While Frost uses a restricted palette, he varies tone and opacity, the central forms intense black and scarlet, fading out into grey and pink as the movement disperses. Writing of the artist’s choice of colour, Chris Stephens declares, ‘However much his love of red, black and white invoked the memory of Malevich and Lissitzky, he was unquestionably the inheritor of the tradition of Matisse and, even more so, of Robert Delaunay.’[1]An exuberant celebration and summation of Frost’s preferred palette and forms, Manitou, reflects the artist’s greatest passions with power and integrity.



Terry Frost, RB and W Spiral for A, 1991

Oil and acrylic on canvas: 190.5 x 190.5 cm
















Leamington Spa 1915 – 2003 Cornwall


Terence Ernest Manitou Frost was born on 13th October 1915 in Leamington Spa.  Brought up by his grandparents, Frost was educated at Rugby Road School before attending Leamington Spa Central School from 11 to 14 years of age.  After leaving school in 1930 he worked in various jobs.  From 1932 to 1939, having joined the Territorial Army, he worked at Armstrong Whitworth in Coventry painting the wings of fighter planes and bombers.  He was called up with the Army Reserve in 1939 and served in France, Palestine and Lebanon.  After joining the Commandos he fought in Crete, where he was captured in 1941.  As a prisoner of War he was interned in camps in Salonika and Poland, ending up in Stalag 383 in Bavaria.  Encouraged by the young artist Adrian Heath, Frost began to draw and paint portraits of his fellow POWs.  


Following his return to Britain in 1945, Frost married Kathleen May Clarke and attended evening classes at Birmingham Art College.  In 1946 he moved with his wife and child to Cornwall where they lived in a caravan before moving into a house in Quay Street, St Ives.  At the suggestion of Adrian Heath he studied at Leonard Fuller’s St Ives School of Painting.  From 1947 to 1950 Frost studied at Camberwell School of Art on an ex-serviceman’s grant.  While attending traditional life classes with William Coldstream, Frost was strongly influenced by the advice and work of Victor Pasmore, who urged him to skip life class in order to spend time looking at paintings in the National Gallery.  With Pasmore’s guidance, he produced his first abstract painting in 1949 based on the poem Madrigal by W.H. Auden. 


In 1950 Frost worked as an assistant to Barbara Hepworth on her sculpture for the Festival of Britain, Contrapuntal Forms.  He taught a life drawing class at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham from 1952-4, where William Scott was head of painting and where Heath, Wynter and Lanyon also taught.  In 1954 Frost was awarded a Gregory Fellowship at Leeds University and moved his family there while teaching at the Leeds School of Art until 1957.  In 1960 he visited America for the first time and through the critic Clement Greenberg he met some of the leading U.S. painters of the day including Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell.  In 1962 Frost and his family moved to Banbury and he taught part-time at Coventry Art College.  He was made Artist in Residence at the Fine Art department of Newcastle University in 1964, became a full time lecturer at Reading University in 1965 and went on to become Professor of Painting there from 1977 to 1981.  Frost moved to Newlyn, Cornwall in 1974.  He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1992 and was knighted in 1998. 








[1] Chris Stephens, Terry Frost, St Ives Artists, Tate Publishing, London, 2000, p.74.


Other Works By
Sir Terry Frost:

Sir Terry Frost - Celebration


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