Green and White signed and inscribed 'Green + White/Terry Frost' (verso) oil on board 75 x 122 cm. (29 1/2 x 48 in.)
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by the family of the present owner in the late 1950s
EXHIBITED: London, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Peterlee Festival Exhibition, no.5
LITERATURE: Michael Bird, The St Ives Artists, A Biography of Place and Time, Lund Humphries, London, 2008, p.10 (ill.b&w)
Also known as Green Movement (from a contemporaneous label attached verso in the artist's hand writing), for the purpose of this sale we have opted for its other title (also written in Frost's hand, verso) Green + White. Almost certainly executed in 1953, it relates closely to Green, Black and White Movement painted in 1951 (Collection Tate Gallery). The 'Movement' series ran in conjunction with the 'Walk Along the Quay' theme, most of which were made from 1951-1953, shortly after Frost moved with his family to St. Ives.
'St Ives was still a working fishing port in those days. Sometimes the tide would be out so far that the harbour was a sloping sandy floor with robes draped across it in all directions, and stranded boats and masts were tilted at angles. In section they were semicircles with the lines of the masts acting as diameters, and the ropes were lines also but much thinner and longer, some taut, and some slack and writhing like snakes against the texture and ivory colour of the sand. Here and there were patches of wet, which glistened silver in the early light. Usually the hulls were black with green at the waterline, and a sharp red trim along the bulwarks. There were hand-painted buoys, and ropes, and folded brown nets; and from the masts came cable stays, and more ropes, and booms with furled canvas sails the colour of rust' (David Lewis et al, Terry Frost, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2000, pp.47-48).
It is easy to see, from this exhaustive description of how the harbour presented itself to Frost in those formative years in Cornwall, how Green + White translated these experiences into an abstract, pictorial vocabulary. A huge semi circle weighs down on the composition, supported by a tightknit, intelligent use of geometric shapes, very similar to those used in Frost's seminal abstract creation of 1949, Madrigal (the artist). The brilliant white square central to the image (maybe the 'patches of wet' on the ivory sand), which contains the thickest impasto on the work, sparkles behind the straight black diagonals, strongly reminiscent of the taut ropes tethered to boats in the harbour. Whilst flanking this passage, dark brown and green vertical lines curve one way, and then another, denoting the intricate patterns of the drying fishing nets. Subtly dropped into the composition, as if by accident, are the three triangular rust coloured segments of the sails binding the sophisticated relationships of the shapes into a united whole.
The basis for the colour scheme employed by Frost in the present work and the Tate Gallery painting is explained in the following passage:
Ropes lay below the surface as well as above, and the reflections of the hulls were upside down semicircles below the surface - reflections which shimmered when there was an early morning stirring of sea breeze. The floor of the harbour would no longer be ivory sand, but turquoise and sage green. (Op. Cit. p.48).
Exhibited by the Arts Council of Great Britain, shortly after it was painted, Green + White was sold directly from the artist to the present owner's parents who were friends with the artist during his time in Leeds (1954-1957). It is a mesmerising testement to the early years of the artist's career, which were devoted to finding an abstract language recognisably his own.