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Norman Cornish Centenary 2019

Norman Cornish MBE was perhaps the most respected and loved artist to emerge from the North East of England in the 20th Century and one of the most famous British artists of his time.

There is a continuing and deepening emotional attachment by many people to his art which the Centenary programme hopes to grow through its themed events and exhibitions.

On this page you can find out about the various exhibitions and events that have been organised throughout the Centenary year.

Exhibitions The Norman Cornish Trail Centenary Map Chronology Centenary News Public Lectures Schools Engagement Feedback


Centenary Exhibitions


Event: Story of the Durham Miners' Gala Mural

Venue: The Bob Abley Art Gallery, Spennymoor Town Hall

Dates: 6th April 2019 - End of Febuary 2020

This unique exhibition tells the fascinating story of a nine-metre mural depicting the Durham Miners’ Gala - painted by Cornish in 1963. Featuring a range of correspondence, preparatory paintings, drawings and sketches - previously unseen by the public - this exhibition plots the artist’s journey from commission of the painting by Durham County Council to its completion. The mural remains on display at Durham’s County Hall building.

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Event: Norman Cornish - A Slice of Life

Venue: Mining Art Gallery, Bishop Auckland

Dates: Open from Saturday, 6 April 2019

Co-curated by residents of Norman’s hometown, this unique exhibition gives a special insight into how his work is viewed today. People from Spennymoor and Norman’s son and daughter have selected their favourite paintings, offering a warm and refreshing perspective on one of the most enduringly popular mining artists.

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Event: Norman Cornish - The Portraits

Venue: Gala Gallery, Durham

Dates: 30th June - 1st September 2019

Portraiture was an important part of Norman Cornish’s artistic practice. This exhibition features self-portraits from throughout his career showing his stylistic development as well as insights into the man himself alongside informal images of his family and more formally commissioned portraits and sketches of local characters.

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Event: Cornish - A Man of Destiny

Venue: The Greenfield Gallery, Greenfield Arts

Dates: 10th October 2019 - 11th December 2019

The exhibition chronicles the journey of Norman Cornish and the great determination and resilience he showed to become a professional artist. Featuring personal quotes from Cornish and an interesting narrative, the exhibition highlights key moments of his career and showcases work that was produced when materials or conditions were not optimal.

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Event: Norman Cornish - The Sketchbooks

Venue: Palace Green Library, Durham University

Dates: 16th November 2019 - 23rd February 2020

For Norman Cornish, sketching was second nature; an inherent part of his everyday life. This exhibition of little seen sketchbooks will present a new dimension to the artist’s practice, focusing on his observations of life, landscapes and family, revealing the inner artistic processes behind some of his most iconic works.

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Event: Norman Cornish - The Definitive Collection

Venue: The Bowes Museum

Dates: 16th November 2019 - 23rd February 2020

Celebrating the centenary of acclaimed artist Norman Cornish MBE, this major retrospective tells the story of his enduring career with the most comprehensive collection of his work ever assembled, including a number of previously unseen pieces.

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Event: Norman Cornish's Former Home

Venue: Beamish Museum

Dates: Permanent Display

The former colliery home of Norman Cornish, set to be recreated in the 50s’ town as part of the Remaking Beamish project, will tell the story of the artist and his family, as well as life in a typical mining community. His sketches and paintings provide a social and historical record of the times.

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Event: Norman Cornish - A Century

Venue: Castlegate House Gallery

Dates: July 6th to July 27th

Castlegate House Gallery in Cockermouth represents the estate of Norman Cornish and sustains a longstanding connection with Norman’s work in Cumbria where he first exhibited in 1951 at Tullie House in Carlisle with LS Lowry and Victor Pasmore: The Border Arts Society- Northern Realists. In 1963, Melvyn Bragg began a relationship with Norman and his work when he produced his first documentary for BBC TV, Two Border Artists. This featured the work of Sheila Fell and Norman Cornish and was the beginning of several other projects which followed between 1973 and the publication of Norman’s autobiography in 1989.

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Event: Norman Cornish Revealed

Venue: Gallery North, University of Northumbria

Dates: Thursday 28th November - Friday 20th December 2019

Paintings and drawings by Norman Cornish exhibited with drawings by some of the most famous artists in the world. Northumbria University has had a long association with Norman Cornish dating back to 1989 and has the largest number of the artist’s works in any single collection. In addition to the permanent body of work, the university also holds the Norman Cornish archive.

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Centenary Map




Interactive Chronology

Centenary News

Public Lectures

Schools Engagement

Workshop: Norman Cornish: The Sketchbooks - Gallery visit and sketching workshop

Location: Palace Green Library, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3RN

Dates: Saturday 16th November – Sunday 23rd February 2020

Come on a tour of the galleries exploring the works of Norman Cornish, focusing on his life, inspirations and themes.

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Workshop: Norman Cornish: The Sketchbooks - Gallery visit and sketching workshop

Location: Palace Green Library, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3RN

Dates: Saturday 16th November – Sunday 23rd February 2020

To accompany a local artist GCSE study, develop your pupils sketching skills inspired by the works of Norman Cornish.

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Workshop: Norman Cornish: The Sketchbooks - Gallery visit and sketching workshop

Location: Palace Green Library, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3RN

Dates: Saturday 16th November – Sunday 23rd February 2020

Come and explore the sketchbooks of local artist Norman Cornish, learn about the mining heritage of County Durham and complete our gallery challenge.

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Workshop: A Slice of Life: School and Gallery Visit

Location: The Mining Art Gallery, Bishop Auckland

Dates: April 6th – October 13th 2019

Use the stories in the art of Norman Cornish to explore how narratives work in art, and how we can express complex stories using simple shapes.

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Workshop: Norman Cornish: The Story - Gallery visit, sketching and collage workshop

Location: The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP

Dates: Saturday 16th November – Sunday 23rd February 2020

Come on an interactive tour of the galleries and find out about the story of Norman Cornish, his life and work and handle tools of the trade.

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Workshop: A Man of Destiny: School and Gallery Visit

Location: The Greenfield Gallery

Dates: 10 October 2019 to Wednesday 11 December 2019

Guided visit to the exhibition followed by workshop response.

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Workshop: Norman Cornish: The Portraits - Gallery visit and visual arts workshop led by Bethan Laker

Location: Gala Durham, Millennium Place, Durham DH11WA

Dates: 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th July 2019

In this workshop children will have a chance to look around the Norman Cornish exhibition, learning more about Norman Cornish, his life and his work.

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Workshop: Norman Cornish: The Portraits – Tony Gadd Norman Cornish Poetry Project

Location: Gala Durham, Millennium Place, Durham DH11WA

Dates: 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th July 2019

In this workshop children will have a chance to look around the Norman Cornish exhibition, learning more about Norman Cornish, his life and his work.

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Centenary Feedback

If you've visited one of the events or exhibitions organised as part of the Norman Cornish Centenary we'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

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