A MUSEUM has launched a retrospective exhibition showing the works of beloved County Durham artist Norman Cornish.

Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection opened today at The Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, almost 100 years to the day of the artist's birth in Spennymoor.

Cornish was born on November 18, 1919 and began working life as a miner at age 14, following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps.

The artist took inspirations from his surroundings and created many versions of the pit road.

His honest depictions of miners reflected the harsh working environment – the claustrophobic space of the seams where men and pit ponies toiled.

Alongside his images reflecting mining life on display are his commissions which ranged from portraits and scenes from Paris.

Collection curator, Dr Howard Coutts, said: "The exhibition is retrospective of the work of Norman Cornish which shows his best work starting with a self portrait and a drawing of his wife and child.

"Visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibition on two levels, one as an exhibition of art by the leading artist in County Durham in one of the most well-known museums and on another level they will enjoy it as people with memories of County Durham who can come and reminisce about what life used to be like."

The painter's son, John Cornish added: "The whole family is very proud of my father in terms of his career which spanned 70 years.

"We are also very proud that we have managed to get such a wide selection of his work here at The Bowes Museum as we have work from the 1940s all the way up to 2010. The art pieces range from small subtle family sketches which took him minutes to huge Tyne skyscapes which took several years to complete – there's a big range of material in the museum.

"I love all of my father's work but I particularly like the small intimate sketches as there's some lovely ones from when me and my sister were little, they would just show us watching tele and depicted normal family life which is why they are my personal favourites.

More than 60 works including pastels, charcoals and oil paintings from public and private collections– some of which are previously unseen– are on show today until Sunday, February 23.