Perspectives: Robson Green and the Pitmen Painters, ITV1 Sunday 8th May, 10.15pm
Robson Green, the son and grandson of miners, returns to his Northumberland roots to explore the true story of the group of pitmen who gathered together in 1934 for an art appreciation class and subsequently became celebrated artists themselves.
It is this story which also inspired playwright Lee Hall, author of Billy Elliot, to write his recent stage hit, The Pitmen Painters. In the small town of Ashington, which lacked even a public library, miners turned to art as a pastime, aided by tutor Robert Lyon, a master painter from Durham University.
Lyon had an ambition for these men – he wanted them to paint the world which they knew, and in so doing, value it all the more. He stressed the importance of looking at everything which surrounded them and of trying to register its significance and interest.
Although the artists were almost untrained professionally, the pitmen painters set out to capture the lives of the communities that they and their families knew – from hewing at the coalface to peering into the kitchen where the wives baked bread.
From a stylistic point of view, it was robustly simple work, although critics have pointed out affinities with other well-known painters of the 20th century, including Stanley Spencer, David Jones and even Henry Matisse…
Don’t miss this show, which promises to be one of those quirky gems Green is so good at presenting.