The 20in x 2ft 4in (51 x 71cm) signed pastel and watercolour was consigned from a local property prior to a house move along with some antique furniture including a walnut secretaire that made £1350. This work on paper proved more valuable, however.
The market for the pitman painter, who worked in the mines at Spennymoor in County Durham from the age of 14, retiring to become a full-time artist in 1966, has proved pretty robust over recent years. Despite the fact that he produced a large body of work and a strong supply of pictures emerges regularly, most often at auctions in the north, the majority of his works still attract bidding so long as the estimates are not overcooked.
It was slightly harder to predict how the example in Canterbury would fare given that it was a monochrome work and with a more unusual composition. Depictions of figures with their backs turned to the viewer are a distinctive part of Cornish’s oeuvre – in particular scenes of men standing at a pub bars or walking down a street – but rarely do they dominate the scene so centrally.
This image of a miner bending over and carrying a lamp and lunchbox in a tunnel bound by steel girders and a conveyor belt, however, was deemed to have a certain evocative appeal. It drew good interest at the auction on February 5-6, surpassing a £5000-7000 estimate and selling online to a Cumbrian bidder at £7500, a decent sum for a work of this size and medium.