THE first exhibition solely featuring portraits painted and sketched by a renowned County Durham pitman artist is launched later this month.

Norman Cornish: The Portraits is the latest of a series of events and exhibitions marking the centenary of the birth of the celebrated Spennymoor-born artist, five years after his death.

It is the only time a collection of the ex-miner’s portraiture, including self-portraits, will be displayed together.

Staged at the Gala Gallery, at Durham’s Gala Theatre, it reflects his developing style and technique, and also features informal images of his family, sketches of local characters and commissioned portraits.

Cornish, who honed his artistic skills at a sketching club at the Spennymoor Settlement, was famed for capturing gritty scenes reflecting the adversity faced by mining communities in the 20th Century.

As part of a programme of events connected to the exhibition, primary school pupils will take part in a workshop with poet Tony Gadd and illustrator Bethan Laker, based on Cornish’s portraits.

A preview launch for Norman Cornish: The Portraits takes place on the evening of Friday June 28, but it opens to the public on Sunday June 30 and runs until September 1.

The free exhibition is open daily from 10am to 8.30pm, but from 2.30pm, on Sundays.