EXHIBITIONS commemorating the 100th anniversary of an artist’s birth have welcomed over 70,000 people across North-East venues since commencing last year.

Norman Cornish MBE, 1919-2014, was one of the most famous artists to emerge from the North-East of England in the 20th Century and became one of the most celebrated British artists of his time.

The Cornish Centenary programme, which commenced in April last year, developed several exhibitions in celebration of Norman Cornish’s life and work through art displays, workshops, schools’ engagement and public lectures.

The Northern Echo:

Over 70,000 people have visited the displays at The Bob Abley Gallery in Spennymoor Town Hall, the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland, The Gala Gallery Durham, Durham University’s Palace Green Library, The Greenfield Gallery in Newton Aycliffe and The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.

The six exhibitions offer different insights into his artwork, which shows life in the pits and offers art lovers a glimpse into the world of mining, highlighting the challenging but bright lives of his generation in the North-East.

The Northern Echo:

Alongside these exhibitions, Norman Cornish’s son-in-law Mike Thornton has undertaken a series of 30 illustrated lectures across the region to over 1,500 people.

The Bowes Museum has extended it's exhibition, Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection, until May 17, and during the current Covid-19 crisis the museum is planning a virtual tour of the retrospective, complete with voice over recordings by members of the Cornish family, which will be available soon on the museum’s website.

As part of the work surrounding the centenary celebrations, the artist’s son John and daughter-in-law Dorothy, both retired County Durham teachers, created a series of teaching resources which are free to download through the Norman Cornish website.

They also supported a range of workshops across the six galleries throughout the year, all which encompass many areas of the curriculum, including history, art, PHSCE, and English, with aims of promoting culture, heritage, and creativity.

The Northern Echo:

Alongside the downloadable resources the family also worked with local artists and curators to run a variety of free workshops with schools, designed to enhance pupils’ learning as part of their curriculum study of the artist.

For some of the schools, the sessions delivered enabled progress towards Arts Award Discover and Arts Award Explore in conjunction with outreach learning at Beamish Museum.

To date around 600 pupils in 12 schools have taken part in the workshops, including those at Rosa Street Primary, West Cornforth, Cleves Cross Primary, Escomb Primary, Castleside Primary and Edmondsley Primary.

The downloadable resources also provide materials for parents looking to engage their children with creative learning while schools are closed, or during self-isolation, and the activities can be easily adapted to suit five to 11-year-old children.

The Northern Echo:

The artist's images can be used for discussion with children, from counting the number of people in a given scene to looking for clues in the art, with hopes that this will encourage children to pick out something they like about the piece and give them the opportunity to look more closely at the artistic process.

Workshops have taken different approaches to exploring his work and the context of his life, including a session with poet Tony Gadd, during which children and adults had the chance to create poetry after experiencing a Norman Cornish exhibition, learning more about the artist’s life and work.

An anthology of the best work created by members of the public through these workshops is being brought together by Tony Gadd and will be available at participating galleries in the summer.

To find out more about the artist, view teaching resources for children and discover Norman Cornish Centenary events, visit normancornish.com