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Black and White Movement, Terry Frost

Abstract black and white painting with rectangular and semi-circle shapes.

Terry Frost, Black and White Movement
Artist, 1954, Oil on board, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (The George and Ann Dannatt Gift, 2011) © The Estate of Sir Terry Frost

At a glance

Artist: Terry Frost

Date: 1954

Materials: Oil on board

Acquisition: The George and Ann Dannatt Gift (2011)


Black and White Movement is one in a series of paintings Terry Frost made in the early 1950s, whilst living and working in Cornwall. The half-moon shapes zigzagging down the centre of the work are based upon his observations of boats rocking back and forth in St Ives harbour. The arrangement of forms make reference to the Golden Section, the ideal geometrical proportion found in nature and used by artists since antiquity to express order and harmony. Frost used string to determine the straight lines and arcs, a technique he learnt from artist Victor Pasmore which mirrored the slackening of mooring ropes at high tide.

Encapsulating Frost’s sensitivity to essentials in the landscape, he describes the motivation behind this series of paintings:

‘I had spent a number of evenings looking over the harbour at St Ives in Cornwall. Although I had been observing a multiplicity of movement during those evenings, they all evoked a common emotion or mood – a state of delight in front of nature. On one particular blue twilit evening, I was watching what I can only describe as a synthesis of movement and counter-movement. That is to say the rise and fall of the boats, the space drawing of the mastheads, the opposing movements of the incoming sea and the outblowing offshore wind’.

Frost had moved to St Ives in 1946, where he encountered artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon and John Wells, all seeking a form of abstraction informed by the surrounding landscape. The inspiration behind Frost’s works falls between an analytical Constructivist approach, which propounded essential geometric form, and an emotional, intuitive response to painting.