Pitman painter Norman Cornish: Hidden wife portrait boosts painting price

Norman Cornish painting Image copyright Norman Cornish
Image caption The early self-portrait by pitman painter Norman Cornish was originally bought by Ivan Geffen, a collector of Spennymoor Settlement works

An early self-portrait by "Pitman painter" Norman Cornish has sold at auction for almost twice its estimated price after a painting of his wife was found hidden on the back.

The discovery was made just hours before the painting was to be sold by Anderson and Garland in Newcastle.

It had been valued at up to £7,000, but a 15-minute bidding battle saw it go under the hammer at £13,500.

Mr Cornish's son John identified the woman as his mother Sarah.

Cornish, a former miner, was renowned for his paintings of life in the industrial North East having learned his craft at an art course run for pitmen at Spennymoor Settlement in County Durham.

He died in August, aged 94.

Anderson and Garland art specialist John Anderson, said: "We found there was another portrait of a woman painted on the back and invited everyone in the room to have a look.

"One of those in the room was Norman Cornish's son John. It was an emotional moment for him when he told the saleroom this was a very early portrait of his mother."

Bidding started at £3,000 for the portrait, which was eventually bought by a North East collector.

It was the last picture to be sold in a collection of Spennymoor Settlement paintings owned by Ivan Geffen.

Mr Geffen, who died in 2013, was a former National Union of Mineworkers solicitor who worked in the Durham Coalfield in the 1940s and 50s.

Mr Anderson said: "The Spennymoor Settlement was a publicly funded educational institution where a number of pitmen went to learn art.

"Ivan realised the talent in the club and started to buy their work."

The paintings, which included six by Cornish, were sold for just under £100,000 by Mr Geffen's widow Mary who said she wanted them returned to the North East.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Pitman painter Norman Cornish died in 2014 at the age of 94

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