Pitman’s paintings on show

The work of Norman Cornish has gone on show at Woodhorn.
The work of Norman Cornish has gone on show at Woodhorn.

A fascinating temporary exhibition of work by a pitman painter has gone on show at Woodhorn Museum.

The Lost World of Norman Cornish opened at the Ashington venue earlier this month and features the legendary artist’s gritty collection.

Born in 1919 in County Durham, Cornish was 65 when he was persuaded to write his autobiography.

He called it A Slice of Life and indeed it was just that, although one could say that it was brought into being a little prematurely given that a further three decades of remarkable activity were to follow its publication. In the prologue to A Slice of Life, he describes the Dean and Chapter Colliery where he worked, as ‘lying at the foot of a huge pit-heap which reminds one of a volcano, not only because of how it looks, but also because its contents have been spewed out of the depths in similar fashion’.

Imaginative and poetic perceptions like this one are present throughout his paintings and drawings which one might reasonably claim are his true autobiography.

Reflecting on his work, Cornish, who died in 2014, wrote “I made drawings of pub workers in days past because I was fascinated by the men standing at the bar drinking and talking, or sitting playing dominoes.

“I was attracted by the shapes they make in their varied attitudes. I also realised that life would change in some ways. The local collieries have gone, together with the pit road. Many of the old streets, chapels and pubs are no more. However, in my memory, and I hope in my drawings, they live on. I simply close my eyes and they all spring to life”

The exhibition runs until Sunday, October 11.

Dr Robert McManners and Gillian Wales explore the influence and legacy of the Spennymoor Settlement on mining art. Sunday, May 17, at 2pm, at Woodhorn. Book on 01670 624455.