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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.

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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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