One of the very interesting handwritten statements uncovered in Cornish’s studio during 2014 discloses another example of the principles which underpinned his overall approach to his observations and work.
’In our memories and also of course in history books most of the so called great events are usually well recorded, but sometimes the ordinary things that happen in our lives are not considered extraordinary enough for comment. Yet things are often very important nevertheless and sometimes give a reader a much better idea of the ‘times’ than the supposedly great events’.
He produced hundreds of character studies, often in specific settings, at work, in pubs, on streets or people simply going about their daily lives. Moments quickly recorded that give us an aspect of heritage so familiar to many followers of Cornish’s work. His ability to work with speed and accuracy and to capture a moment in time was one of his strengths, using his Flo-master pen to great effect. A sketch book was a constant companion, kept in a ‘poacher’s pocket’ on the inside of a ‘donkey jacket’ along with his pen so that they were always immediately accessible.
Jackie Broomfield was a local character who was well known to Cornish. He became the subject on numerous drawings for many years and he was often seen on the streets of Spennymoor with his horse and cart, sometimes collecting scrap materials or doing ‘odd jobs.’ His horse, called ‘Dolly,’ provided a free source of ‘horse muck’ for those who were nimble enough to rush out and collect the manure for a garden or allotment.
Subjects such as these often invoke many memories, and Cornish’s drawings are imbued with a sense of recognition of people and places, that help us to develop feelings of nostalgia and regional identity. Jackie Broomfield with his ladder or horse and cart could of course be typical of scenes replicated in different parts of the country at different times, and some other artists have attempted to imitate the same subjects.
The difference is that Cornish’s work is based upon direct experience and personal knowledge that enables a realistic and authentic depiction of life and characters in times remembered.
Throughout the centenary year, an interesting range of themed exhibitions is planned in order to commemorate Norman’s life and to celebrate his work.
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