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Vincent van Gogh

As a member of The Spennymoor Settlement Sketching Club, Norman was able to borrow authoritative books about famous and influential artists. Men of talent but limited resources were thus able to access the outside world via the medium of print.

In March 1950, an Arts Council exhibition in Anfield Plain displayed many reproductions of images by van Gogh. The exhibition also included works by members of the Sketching Club, including eight original works by Norman Cornish.

Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night was painted from memory, in daytime, during a difficult period in his life. It was 1889 and he depicted the view from the east- facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Remy-de Provence just before sunrise, with the addition of an imaginary village.

Norman Cornish’s Starry Night is experiential, based on walking the pit road every day, for some 30 years or more, at varying times of the night and day, and in all seasons of the year. The Pit Road is perhaps Cornish’s most iconic image throughout his career, often repeated, with numerous variations. The journey to Dean and Chapter Colliery was three miles each way that he travelled along with hundreds of other men.

Talking to a group of children many years ago, Cornish described his experience on the pit road:

‘A gust of wind blew raindrops into my eyes and my vision became a blinding flash of light. When my eyes cleared, I began to see the scene differently. The lights looked like stars in the sky.’