Born in Dublin, Thomas Frye came to England at an early age and practised as a portrait painter before managing a china manufactory in Bow for fifteen years. Thomas Frye produced relatively few engravings, all of which are mezzotint portraits, and almost all of which date from the last two years of his life. Their significance lies in their dramatic approach to portraiture and in the fact that they are some of the few original mezzotint engravings of the period. At this time mezzotint was used almost exclusively as a reproductive process by engravers who would simply copy the designs of other painters. Thomas Frye was exceptional in using the mezzotint medium as a creative process, both designing and engraving his own works on the copper.
Thomas Frye is best known today for his two series of portrait heads, engraved in pure mezzotint, produced during the final years of his life between 1760 and 1762.