BLUE WINTER

© Estate of Terry Frost. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018.

BLUE WINTER 1956

Sir Terry Frost (1915 – 2003)

Details

Dimension
121 X 190.5 CM
Media
OIL ON HARDBOARD
Accession number
P364

Summary

In 1956, Terry Frost was away from the Cornish landscape with which he and his work is so closely associated , living in Yorkshire as the first ever Gregory Fellow in painting at the University of Leeds. This painting includes one of the characteristic features that entered his work in this period: long, flowing vertical lines, united in direction, but otherwise stubbornly individual. A pictorial device taken from the hand-laid dry stone walls that punctuate the rough hillsides of the Yorkshire Dales, they let Frost’s painting reflect the landscape’s controlled wilderness: “an honest solution to painting landscape on a flat surface, because that was what it looked like”.[1]

In the Tate’s Winter 1956, Yorkshire [2], they run most of the length of a piece of hardboard nearly 2½ metres long – larger than most of the works in the influential and notably plus-sized paintings of the show of American Abstract Expressionism in London that year, also at Tate. Frost wrote that the painting’s dizzy rush recalled sledging down in Leeds’ Roundhay Park with Kenneth Armitage – a Gregory Fellow in sculpture. Going down Hill 60 – so called because that, in miles, was thought to be the speed achievable on the way down – Frost remembered

“I went from half way, lost the sledge at the dip (concave form) (shallow curve) & sailed right on without the sledge slid along on my chest straight into the spectators, bowled several over.”

“Back home”, he continued, he tried to stay on the board:

“the continued excitement of Black & White led me to paint Winter 56. To take a line from top to bottom & keep it alive was a real challenge…”[3]

This comes from a letter to the writer, artist and curator Colin Painter in 1977, and is an example of another development of the Leeds years: the attachment of narratives to his work. From the perspective of the critic Chris Stephens, it’s a “good example of the artist’s use of a jolly story to obscure more serious aspects of a painting.”[4] As late as his ‘Six Decades’ retrospective at the Royal Academy in 2000,[5] this kind of literary glossary remained an important part of Frost’s practice, while the technical aspects Stephens refers to are visible in the preparatory drawings Frost made as he worked out how best to turn experience into successful painting.[6]

The anecdotes highlight the relationship between Winter 1956, Yorkshire and Blue Winter (1956). Rather than hurtling down the lines, here, the eye is taken across them, from left-to-right in the battered Bedford van was driving at the time. Along the way, the bisected moon-shape hoves into better view:

This painting is about driving home from Harrogate, with the landscape on my right. It was white with a beautiful blue moon: it had been snowing. Luckily it was very late and there was no other traffic. Here is my blue moon at different stages, and the landscape […][7]

Tom Overton, 2010.

[1] Discussing Red Black and White, Leeds (1955), Terry Frost: Six Decades [exh. cat.](London: Royal Academy, 2000), p.32.
[2] Oil on board, 246.7 x 125 cm, London, Tate Gallery.
[3] TGA [Tate Gallery Archive] 7919.3.5.
[4] Chris Stephens, Terry Frost (London: Tate, 2000), p.39.
[5] Six Decades, p.32.
[6] Mel Gooding, Terry Frost: Act and Image, Works on Paper Through Six Decades [exh. cat.](London: Belgrave Gallery, 2000).
[7] Six Decades, p.32.