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Norman Cornish Centenary 2019

The overall aim of the project was not only to celebrate the life and work of Norman Cornish, and to reinforce the importance of his legacy, but to actively seek to bring his work to a range of new audiences, including those that have faced social, cultural, financial and physical barriers to engaging with their own heritage.

The centenary year in 2019 provided an unrivalled opportunity to celebrate Cornish’s life and work and to ensure his work has a sustained legacy into the future. Norman Cornish MBE was perhaps the most famous artist to emerge from the North East of England in the 20th Century and he became one of the most famous British artists of his time. His work is held in public and private collections throughout the UK and abroad. The paintings and drawings of Cornish tell the story of hard lived lives of a community which endured despite prejudice and adversity. He has not only preserved a life lived by millions of people in this country and others around the world, he has given it significance and permanence that only a real artist can achieve.

The celebratory exhibition of Cornish’s work was delivered across six venues, accompanied by a targeted programme of community engagement. By using Cornish’s work as a focal point, the project encouraged and supported people to explore the role of arts in communities, providing a context for people to be inspired to participate in the arts and to gain a deeper connection with their local heritage.

Public Exhibition Programme details in Past Exhibitions

Illustrated Lectures:

To complement the exhibitions, several illustrated lectures were delivered free of charge by the Cornish family, to enhance the experience, improve audience knowledge and understanding of Cornish, his life and work and the rich heritage of the region.

Engagement Programme

An overarching engagement project was undertaken by Tony Gadd (spoken poet) who delivered a bespoke intergenerational engagement programme using creative writing and poetry to explore themes linked to the focus of each exhibition. The workshops included a performance event at each participating venue to enable participants to utilise the skills developed through the workshops.

Each venue also delivered their own independent artist led workshops informed by the works they exhibited. For example, Palace Green delivered sketching workshops and school programmes exploring the heritage of the landscapes and public houses portrayed in Cornish’s works, Bowes Museum worked with local primary school children to create sounds (junk workshop) for each exhibition piece, and Greenfield Gallery worked with writing groups to deliver workshops with young people to develop creative writing skills, focusing on the prejudice and aspirations of those (mining communities) represented in the painting, encouraging aspirations and developing attributes to realise potential.

Further enquiries :

Interactive Chronology

Centenary News