PERSPECTIVES: ROBSON GREEN AND THE PITMEN PAINTERS
UK | ITV Network
RUNNING TIME: 60 minutes | AIRDATE: Sunday 8 May 2011 @ 10.15pm
Robson Green has always been massively aware of his mining roots, this Northumberland boy is the son and grandson of miners and in the fascinating Perspectives documentary Robson Green and The Pitmen Painters he takes a look at the true story of a group of pitmen who, in 1934, formed their own art appreciation class and took up brushes themselves to celebrated effect. In fact this story also inspired Billy Elliot scribe Lee Hall to pen the stage production The Pitmen Painters.
Robson visits the small town of Ashington, which at the time lacked even a public library leading the miners to turn 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 Henri Matisse.
Of course one of the most important factors is the window on the world of the miners that their art represents.