Terry found fame after leaving town

Terry Frost and wife Kathleen on their wedding day in 1945
Terry Frost and wife Kathleen on their wedding day in 1945

Terry Frost quit his home town Leamington with his wife in 1946 hoping to become an artist.

Eventually his dream came true and he achieved fame as an abstract painter. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1992 and was knighted in 1998.

Sir Terry Frost never forgot Leamington and was a frequent visitor to the new art gallery in the Royal Pump Rooms.

Leamington historian Alan Griffin met him there on several occasions and included Sir Terry in his book Leamington Lives Remembered (published by Feldon Books, £6.95).

Terence Ernest Manitou Frost was born on October 13 1915 at 27 Rugby Road, Leamington. His father Ernest served with the Royal Field Artillery during the Great War and the unusual Christian name Manitou probably came from the SS Manitou, a military transport ship.

Terry’s parents separated after the war and he was brought up by his grandmother. After school he had a number of jobs, working in a shop, a bakery and the Armstrong Whitworth factory at Baginton, where he was allowed to paint the red, white and blue roundels on the Wellington bombers they made.

When war was declared he was called up and joined the 52nd Middle East Commandos. By 1941 he was a prisoner of war in Stalag 383 in Bavaria and it was there he started to paint. Some of his early watercolours were done on blackout curtain. He produced many portraits of fellow prisoners and sent some of his work back to Leamington via the YMCA for one of their exhibitions.

The camp’s unofficial art critic was another ex-Leamington lad, Fred Mulley, who many years later became a Government Minister and was ennobled as Lord Mulley.

At Stalag 383 Terry also struck up a friendship with a man called Adrian Heath, who became his adviser in his early years as a struggling artist.

Back home in Leamington, Terry’s family were incredulous at the idea of him becoming an artist. But, on Heath’s advice, Terry and his new wife Kathleen left town in May 1946 with one old tin trunk on their way to St Ives in Cornwall, regarded as the best place for an aspiring artist.

With six children to support, life was a struggle for Terry and his wife. He got a grant for a course at Camberwell School of Art. He went back to St Ives each summer and worked as a waiter.

In 1951 he worked for Barbara Hepworth on a Festival of Britain commission. He flourished in St Ives and started painting abstracts with bold shapes and brilliant colours, for which he became well known.

Sir Terry Frost died on September 1, 2003 at the age of 87.