Sir Terry Frost

Rider’s Song


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Sir Terry Frost 1915–2003
Original title
Cancion De Jinete
Etching and acrylic paint on paper
Image: 555 × 375 mm
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of David and Renée McKee 2003
On long term loan


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 background of Rider's Song features a large diamond shape. The central part of the diamond is uncoloured except for the faint outline of diagonal lines; the outer part of the image is composed of streaked marks of blue-grey. Four round shapes are positioned near the four corners of the print. The circles in the top right and bottom left are dense matt black. The round form in the top left is rendered in the same grisaille markings as the background with an overlaid black crescent. At the bottom right is a more informal shape. The outline of a circle is suggested with a thick black line and a long bright red arc. Overlapping this shape above and to the right is another loose circular form in grey on which a black spiral appears.

The expressive poem on which the print is based describes a rider’s lonely journey through the night: ‘Black pony, big moon, / and olives in my saddle-bag’. Frost described his excitement at these lines, saying, ‘Well that was enough for me. I’m a great black olive fan – and in my saddle bag! I had to do it’ (quoted in Linda Saunders, ‘Frost and the Duende’, Terry Frost, p.218). The circles on the print can be seen to represent both olives and the moon against the night sky. This print relates directly to a painting that Frost made during the same period, Black Olives for Lorca, 1989 (private collection; reproduced no.35 in colour in Terry Frost: Six Decades).

Further reading:
David Lewis, David Archer, Ronnie Duncan, Adrian Heath and Linda Saunders, Terry Frost, Aldershot, Hants, 2000, reproduced p.216.
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.

Rachel Taylor
July 2004

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