View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Frost was a major figure in the second generation of St Ives artists. Although he is primarily known as an abstract painter, printmaking was a major part of his artistic output throughout his career. The prints in the series Eleven Poems by Federico Garcia Lorca were produced to accompany a suite of poems by Spanish poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) printed in the original Spanish and in English translation. Work on Frost’s colour intaglio prints in this series was overseen first by painter and graphic designer Gordon House and then by printmaker Hugh Stoneman. The poems and prints were published by Austin/Desmond Contemporary Books, London in 1989 in a solander box designed by the artist. In the box each print rests inside a paper folder on which the respective poem is printed. In addition Frost decorated the exterior of the box and designed a title page for the portfolio. The suite was produced in an edition of seventy-five plus fifteen artist’s copies; Tate’s copy is the fourth of ten artist’s proofs.
Widely regarded as one of Spain’s greatest writers, Lorca was killed by pro-Franco forces in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. Along with his literary achievements his early death sealed his posthumous reputation as a political martyr. Frost began reading Lorca’s poetry in depth in the 1970s and was inspired by the poet’s visual imagery, particularly his emotive descriptions of colour. The artist’s first print made in response to a Lorca poem was a 1974 screenprint entitled Variations. In the late 1980s Frost obtained copyright to English translations of several of Lorca’s poems and began work on the images in this portfolio. Recalling this period of his life, Frost proclaimed his admiration for the poet, saying, ‘Lorca is so simple, and so direct, and so full of colour and ideas. I was so much in love with the poetry at that time’ (quoted in Terry Frost: Six Decades, p.69).
The poem on which this print is based comprises three couplets, the second of which Frost reproduces in his own handwriting, along with the poem’s title, at the bottom of the print: ‘still waters of the water / under a frond of stars’. A simple calligraphic star is scrawled in the bottom right corner next to these words. Above the text gently undulating dark blue lines over a swirled wash of paler blue denote a calm sea. Semi-circular forms in red, yellow, black and blue sit above the waterline. These forms are mirrored in a row of semi-circular blue forms towards the bottom of the print, a reflection that recalls ‘the boughs of the echo’ in Lorca’s poem. Frost’s modifications of a simple geometric form, the semi-circle, are comparable to Lorca’s variations on a poetic couplet.
David Lewis, David Archer, Ronnie Duncan, Adrian Heath and Linda Saunders, Terry Frost, Aldershot, Hants, 2000.
Mel Gooding and Isabel Carlisle, Terry Frost: Six Decades, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2000.
Chris Stephens, St Ives Artists: Terry Frost, London, 2000.
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