Changing landscapes: Norman Cornish and North East regional identity

Bunn, Leanne (2010) Changing landscapes: Norman Cornish and North East regional identity. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis examines the work of the Durham pitman and artist Norman Cornish whilst analysing the economic and cultural climate which has promoted and sustained his career as a regional artist for over seventy years. Cornish’s depiction of mining life remains widely acknowledged by regional patrons and the local media as an iconic representation of the distinctiveness of North East mining communities. The fact that his work continues to receive considerable media attention whilst maintaining a strong patronage within the region, promotes several issues relating to the understanding of regional culture and identity. Why has Cornish’s work remained so enduringly popular and what does this reveal about the dynamics of North East regional culture? This research considers the interpretation and patronage of Cornish’s work during key periods of the region’s development and in doing so provides the first sustained study of Cornish’s career in relation to regional cultural identity. Industrialisation, economic change, concepts of community and nostalgia are all recognised as fundamental factors which have shaped the region’s cultural identity during the twentieth century. Essentially, it is argued that a sense of ‘Northernness’ is crucial to Cornish’s regional popularity. Significantly, this thesis identifies a variation between Cornish’s regional and national popularity. The artist’s strong local appeal has not been replicated consistently on a broader national level. It is suggested that the varying national interest in Cornish’s career should be considered in relation to wider artistic trends as well as patronage from organisations such as the National Coal Board. On a regional level, a large proportion of Cornish’s continued appeal to local audiences can be attributed to the sympathetic response from the regional media. Whilst the study of regional identity within the scope of visual culture is by no means a new or impoverished field, this study adopts a thematic treatment of culture, identity and representation, in order to understand the contribution of visual culture to regional identity during the twentieth century. By dealing with visual culture in its broadest and most fluid sense, this study consults both social and cultural history sources alongside art historical perspectives.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: W100 Fine Art
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
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Depositing User: EPrint Services
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2010 14:44
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 13:31

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