Mines were a filthy cacophony of dangerous claustrophobic tunnels swathed in a blinding darkness.
But there were miners in the North East of England who wanted to capture the beauty and majesty of mining underground and the pit yard through art.
Robert McManners, who along with Gillian Wales created the largest privately owned collection of mining art, The Gemini Collection, at Bishop Auckland in County Durham, will be speaking about mining art at The Arts Society Isle of Man’s next lecture.
Robert will present ‘Shafts of Light: The Phenomenon of Mining Art’ at the Manx Museum, in Douglas, on Tuesday (May 16) at 11.30am.
He will open his lecture by answering the question of why miners painted the mines. No similar bodies of experiential work exist from the other heavy industries, such as steel making or ship-building, that may have been more persuasive to the artist’s eye than the arcane underworld of the miner.
The mining artists tell their experiences beyond the pit gates and take us to their homes and their communities and absorb us in their whole way of life.
Some moved on to become professional artists but none forgot their main inspiration and have left us with a powerful first-hand record of a mighty, all consuming industry now consigned to history.
To preserve this unique canon of mining art Robert and Gillian created the largest privately owned collection of mining art, The Gemini Collection.
Some 423 pictures were donated to The Auckland Project to create the country’s first gallery dedicated to art by the miner.
Since then, the Gemini Collection has been enhanced and expanded to include over 460 works and it continues to grow. The collection atmospherically conveys not only what it looked like in the arcane world of mining but also what it felt like to be a coal miner.
It includes a wide range of paintings, prints, and drawings showing life in the mines and the communities surrounding them.
Robert, a doctor by profession, was awarded the OBE in 2014 for his contribution to culture and the arts in the North East.
His publications include: ‘Shaft of Light - Mining Art in the Great Northern Coalfield’ (2002), McGuinness – Interpreting the Art of Tom McGuinness (2006) and Durham Portraits (2007).
To attend lectures or watch a live zoom broadcast join The Arts Society Isle of Man.
Non-members can attend lectures for £10, which is payable on the door. Entrance is free for students.