October 26th, 2016

Sir Terry Frost – centenary exhibition in Leamington

Updated: 10:04 am, Sep 07, 2015

THE CENTENARY of the birth of Leamington’s most famous artistic son is celebrated this summer.

Sir Terry Frost was a leading figure in 20th century British art – best known for his distinctive abstract paintings.

A Leamington Lad, running at Leamington Art Gallery from July 24 to October 11, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Terry, and the exhibition will include a number of works never previously put on show.

Born in 1915, Terence Ernest Manitou Frost grew up on Rugby Road. He was raised by his grandmother, and attended school in Milverton. After leaving school he tried his hand at everything from working in Curry’s to inserting the jam into doughnuts at a local bakery.

His talent for art was clear at a young age but the closest he came to making any money from painting in his early lihfe was when as a 17 year-old working a Coventry aircraft factory he was sometimes allowed to paint the red white and blue roundels on the Wellington bombers being built there.

He lived in Leamington until the Second World War broke out in 1939, when he was called up.

In 1941 he was posted to Crete, where British troops were forced to surrender and became Prisoners of War. It was in the harsh conditions of the camp Stalag 383, that he began to paint. Often using improvised materials he became known for his skill at painting portraits.

In 1944 the Art Gallery & Museum in his home town staged a small exhibition of paintings the artist had sent back from the camp and when he returned home in 1945, he was determined to pursue a career in art and enrolled in evening classes at Birmingham School of Art.

Later that year he married Kathleen Clarke and together they made the brave decision to move to St Ives in Cornwall, to become part of the artistic community which had developed there.

Although he remained based in Cornwall for much of the rest of his life, from 1947 he studied at Camberwell School of Art in London and he later took up teaching posts in Corsham near Bath, Leeds and Reading, which led to him and Kath, together with their six children, returning to the Midlands to live in Banbury for most of the 60s and early 70s by which time he had established his reputation as one of the great British abstract painters of the 20th century.

Sir Terry never lost links with Leamington and his second exhibition at the Art Gallery & Museum took place in 1964 and a group of works were donated to the collection by the artist in 1998.