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  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
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  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
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Northumberland Open Exhibition 2024

08/02/2024

Open Exhibition at Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland launches year-long celebration of the Pitmen Painters

Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland has named Jim Donnelly from Amble, the overall winner of its annual Open Exhibition, which opens to the public from Saturday 17 February.

Every year, the event gives artists from across Northumberland and beyond the chance to have their work displayed at Woodhorn Museum as part of a major exhibition. This year’s Open Exhibition is part of Ashington Group 90; a new, year long programme of exhibitions and events at Woodhorn marking 90 years since the formation of the world-famous Pitmen Painters.

Entrants to this year’s Open Exhibition were invited to submit artworks based on the theme ‘Northumberland Now’, and take inspiration from the artwork made by the Ashington Group who celebrated their local community, work and environment and expanded their horizons through art.

The Open Exhibition will begin a year long celebration of the Ashington Group (also known as the Pitmen Painters) at Woodhorn Museum in 2024. Ashington Group 90 will feature a special collection of paintings by Ashington Group artist Oliver Kilbourn, the unveiling of a beautifully conserved mining banner featuring artwork by Kilbourn, and a newly curated exhibition by award-winning painter Dr Narbi Price that reunites artworks and artefacts from the early days of the Pitmen Painters.

Rowan Brown, chief executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “The Ashington Group of artists, which first formed ninety years ago in 1934, are central to the story of mining and creativity here in Northumberland.

“Their much-loved paintings uniquely documented their world and found beauty in the lives of the people who lived and worked in coalfield communities. Ashington Group 90 is an opportunity to celebrate the work of the Pitmen Painters – the first collection of amateur art to be permanently displayed in the UK – to reflect on the places adored by the group, and to be inspired by their example.

“The Open Exhibition is a wonderful way to begin our year long celebration as it demonstrates the impact the Pitmen Painters still have today; encouraging both amateur and professional artists to document the world around them.”

Also opening on Saturday 17 February is a pop-up Ashington Group Hut – modelled on the original hut used by the Pitmen Painters to make and discuss their work – that will offer a changing programme of free, family-friendly arts activities for people of all ages. Visitors will be able to get creative using some of the materials, methods and techniques used by the Pitmen Painters. The pop-up Ashington Group Hut will be open everyday during the Northumberland school holidays in 2024.

Ashington Group 90 continues in March with the unveiling of a special collection of nearly 40 paintings by founding member of the Ashington Group, artist Oliver Kilbourn, that have not been on display since 2014.

Oliver Kilbourn: My Life as a Pitman, which runs from Friday 29 March – Sunday 15 September 2024, documents Kilbourn’s 50-year career underground through his paintings; offering a unique insight into the working environment of a Northumberland coal miner during the mid-20th Century.

As part of the exhibition, a newly conserved mining banner from the Ellington colliery branch – featuring artwork by Oliver Kilbourn – will go on display alongside the original painting. Dating back to 1951, the banner depicts rows of dark terraced houses under the view of the brooding skies and colliery buildings and pit heaps, with the inscription ‘Close the door on past dreariness’. On the reverse, a row of large tree lined houses and gardens sit under a bright blue sky accompanying the inscription ‘Open it to future brightness’.

And in October, painter, Dr Narbi Price – who wrote his PhD on the Pitmen Painters – will present a new exhibition looking at the early years of the Ashington Group. Coalface Drawers, which runs from Saturday 05 October 2024 – Sunday 05 January 2025, will bring together a collection of objects and paintings that have never been exhibited before.

The family of Robert Lyon, the tutor who first inspired the group of local mine workers in his art appreciation classes, and championed them throughout his life, have also loaned items from their own private collections.

Ashington Group 90 takes place at Woodhorn Museum from Saturday 17 February 2024 to Sunday 05 January 2025. For more information, visit museumsnorthumberland.org.uk.

Open Exhibition 2024, which kick-starts the year-long programme of exhibitions and events, opens at Woodhorn Museum on Saturday 17 February and runs until Monday 06 May. For more information, visit museumsnorthumberland.org.uk.

Entry to Woodhorn Museum is free for children under 18 with an admission charge of £9.50 for adults and £8.50 for concessions. All passes are valid for unlimited visits for 12 months from the date of issue.

Woodhorn Museum is part of Northumberland’s County museum service, Museums Northumberland, which cares for sites of special historic interest and collections of national importance across the county.

For more information about Museums Northumberland, visit www.museumsnorthumberland.org.uk.

-ENDS-

For more information, images or interview requests, please contact David Brookbanks on david@ludlowstreet.co.uk or 07948 563 612.

Notes to editor

About Museums Northumberland


Ashington Group 90 is supported by The Ashington Group Trustees, Northumberland County Council, Arts Council England, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Sir James Knott Trust.

Museums Northumberland (the public name for Woodhorn Charitable Trust) is Northumberland’s museum service, which cares for sites of historic interest and collections across the county.

Museums Northumberland comprises Woodhorn Museum in Ashington, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Hexham Old Gaol Hexham Moot Hall, Hexham House of Correction and Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum.

Museums Northumberland is supported by Northumberland County Council and is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

 

Northumberland Open Exhibition 2024