Pitman painter Norman Cornish’s work goes on permanent display in Sunderland

'Pit Road, Winter' by Norman Cornish has been donated to the University of Sunderland by the painter's family

'Pit Road, Winter' by Norman Cornish has been donated to the University of Sunderland by the painter's family

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A painting by one of the North East’s best-loved artists is to go on permanent display in Sunderland.

‘Pit Road, Winter’ by Norman Cornish has been donated to the University of Sunderland by the painter’s family in recognition of his long connection with the university – which included being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts in 2012.

Norman Cornish. Picture courtesy of Northern Echo.

Norman Cornish. Picture courtesy of Northern Echo.

Norman captured Dean and Chapter Colliery at Ferryhill in ‘Pit Road, Winter’; a road he walked along almost every day for more 30 years and knew very well.

Although not dated, it’s believed the artist worked on the painting around 1995, during a time when mining faced an uncertain future.

Born in Spennymoor in 1919, Cornish had no formal training as an artist, going straight into the pit at the age of 14.

He was a respected amateur, having held several exhibitions and produced a 30ft mural for the new County Hall in Durham before back pain forced him to give up work and rely full-time on his painting in 1966.

When my father learned that University of Sunderland were to ‌award him an Honorary Doctorate of Arts it gave him another opportunity to reflect upon his early life.

John Cornish

Son John Cornish said: “When, in 2012, my father learned that University of Sunderland were to ‌award him an Honorary Doctorate of Arts it gave him another opportunity to reflect upon his early life.

“His formal education had ended at the age of 14, when he was obliged to leave school and help his parents support their large family.

On a dark night on Boxing Day, 1933, he began a new phase of his life working underground as a miner.

“So, with no college or university education behind him, many years later, the award from the university was affirmation that, despite the most difficult of circumstances, he had fulfilled his potential to learn and had been formally recognised for his achievements in life.

“My father also had another reason to thank University of Sunderland. In the 1960s he was offered a visiting lectureship, for one day a week, at what was then Sunderland College of Art.

“This short teaching venture came at a very important time when he had left the mines and had lost the security of a weekly wage packet. This appointment helped fund his transition from the mines to a professional art career.

“The gift of the ‘Pit Road’ painting reinforces my late father’s relationship with University of Sunderland.

“The painting reflects Wearmouth’s strong industrial heritage. Hopefully it will be enjoyed by visitors to National Glass Centre for many years to come.”

Michelle Daurat, National Glass Centre’s interim director, commented: “We’re honoured to receive ‘Pit Road, Winter’ from Norman Cornish’s family and include it on permanent display in our collection.”

The painting will hang in the ‘Stories of Glass in Sunderland’ exhibition space, alongside a sketch of St Peter’s Church by LS Lowry.