Terry Frost was born in Leamington Spa in 1915 and grew up in a working-class family in the 1920s, raised by his grandmother. Frost joined the Territorial Army in 1933 and was called up for service upon the declaration of war in 1939. Frost was taken prisoner of war in 1941 and began painting during his internment, sending paintings home in 1944. Whilst in captivity he met British artist and fellow prisoner Adrian Heath. Upon his return to England and on the advice of Heath, Frost moved with his wife to St Ives, and coincidentally the same road as Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. An artistic community built up, drawn by Nicholson and Hepworth, and included Peter Lanyon and Bryan Winter amongst others. In 1947, Frost returned to London until 1950 to train at Camberwell School of Art, and Frost was heavily influenced by Victor Pasmore, then a teacher at Camberwell. Frost's family remained in Cornwall, and it was the motifs of the Cornish landscape that dominate throughout Frost's career.
From the early 1960s Frost's position as a leading abstract painter was consolidated and his reputation as a tough but essentially sympathetic and inspiring teacher began to grow. Coastlines, quays, boats, sails, waves and the sun constitute the building blocks of Frost's formal qualities in his continual negotation between abstraction and figuration. In 1960 Frost's first solo show was held in New York and in 1963 the artist moved back to the Midlands, settling in Banbury although always in touch with Cornwall and London. He began teaching at Reading University, later becoming Professor of Painting. He was elected an RA in 1992 an knighted in 1998.