PICTURES have been released of the fake Norman Cornish paintings which destabilised the international art market and saw a conman jailed.

Earlier this week conman Richard Pearson was locked up for flooding the art world with forged work purporting to belong to famous 'pitman painter' who died in 2014.

On Thursday, Northumbria Police released photographs of some of the paintings and drawings which fooled gallery owners.

Loading article content

They are not exact replicas of Cornish originals, but painted in the artist's distinctive style and depict scenes of everyday life.

One, however, does bear a striking resemblance to Cornish's 'Man at Bar with Pint'.

Newcastle Crown Court heard 56-year-old fraudster Pearson convinced the owners of a gallery in Corbridge, Northumberland, that he had access to a collection of Mr Cornish's artworks through inheritance and via a friend who wanted to sell his personal collection.

Pearson, of Thomas Street North, Sunderland, passed off a series of 14 drawings and pictures, which left the gallery owners who bought them, £52,500 out of pocket.

Four of the fakes were sold on to private collectors.

Norman Cornish's son-in-law Michael Thornton read a victim impact statement in court on behalf of the family.

He told the court the family on behalf of Norman Cornish ltd, actively monitor the sales of his artwork, throughout the world, and are always alert to fakes and forgeries.

Mr Thornton said this was the first time so many fakes have gone into circulation through the work of one fraudster and as a result made the art market "become nervous".

He added: "At the moment the market remains unstable."

Mr Thornton urged the court to pass a deterrent sentence to protect the art world at large and added: "Norman's reputation must not be sullied".

Prosecutor Mark Giuliani said the gallery owners, the private buyers, the Cornish family and the art world as a whole are all victims in this case.

He added: "There is a large number of victims.

"This activity destabilises the market."

All of the artwork put into circulation by Pearson has been seized and will be destroyed by the police.

The court heard the conman forged receipts from a now closed down gallery called Stone, in Newcastle, claiming to be dated from the 1960s, to give his fakes added authenticity.

But Mr Giuliani told the court Pearson made a massive currency blunder.

He said: "What was instantly and readily apparent is rather than being in pounds, shillings and pence it is in decimal pounds and pence."

The telephone number shown on the document was too long to be legitimate.

The court heard it was when one of the paintings was taken to a restorer, who questioned why the canvass appeared to be new, that Pearson's lies began to unravel.

Even after he was challenged by the Corbridge gallery owner about the authenticity of his offerings, Pearson came up with a convincing explanation about the genuine work being in storage.

Despite being questioned, Pearson went on to convincingly claim to have access to copies of artwork by James Clark, which caused "excitement" in the gallery he was conning and led to them handing over further cash.

The court heard when Pearson failed to return to the gallery with the Clark cow paintings he had promised, the police became involved.

Pearson, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, initially told "lies, lies and more lies".

But he later pleaded guilty to nine charges of fraud, two of forgery and two of using a false instrument with intent between December 2011 and February 2014.

Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced Pearson to three years and seven months behind bars.

The judge told him: "They were fakes but they were convincing fakes, with a fake signature on the corner."

Judge Bindloss said the art world relies on people having confidence in the authenticity of what they buy.

The judge added: "When confidence diminishes the market diminishes.

"This has potential to have effected the art market in general."

In a prepared statement the Cornish family said after the case: "Firstly, we would like to thank Northumbria Police for their real professionalism and great diligence in the past three years to bring this case to trial.

"On behalf of the Cornish family, we welcome today's sentence and feel that the outcome should serve as a warning to other forgers and fraudsters.

"The forged material will be destroyed, ensuring complete confidence within the art market for collectors, dealers and auctioneers.

"The public will also be assured to know that Northumbria and Newcastle Universities are jointly developing a profile of all materials used by Norman Cornish, so that in the future instrumental analysis can be used to help determine authenticity."

Paul Currer, defending, said Pearson, who is a widower and former landscaper, wished to publicly apologise for his behaviour.

Mr Currer said Pearson is in poor health and has the ability to pay back the money he conned out of the gallery through a fleet of luxury cars he gained through inheritance.

Pearson will now be pursued by prosecutors under the Proceeds of Crime Act.