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The Last Pitmen Painter

Sequin | 12:56 UK time, Friday, 30 October 2009

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Nigel Wrench writes:
This is a snap of the artist Norman Cornish whose work over more than seven decades has chronicled the life above and below ground of coal miners in County Durham.

Mr Cornish was just 14 when he began work on the mines. Now 90, he's the last survivor of the group that became known as the pitmen painters, their lives recorded in Lee Hall's hit play of that name, now touring Britain in a National Theatre production.

There's a retrospective of Norman Cornish's work in Newcastle opening today (details here http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/universitygallery/cornish/ ) and I've been speaking to him for this evening's PM.

I asked him if he began to sketch as an escape from the harsh reality of his everyday life as a miner.

He snorted contemptuously. "An itch I had to scratch," is how he describes the urge to draw. He still works every day.

Here, courtesy the artist and the University Gallery at Northumbria University, is some of his work.

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