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Mining Review 25/9: Tom McGuinness (1972)


Main image of Mining Review 25/9: Tom McGuinness (1972)
Mining Review 25th Year No. 9: County Durham - Tom McGuinness
May 1972
35mm, colour, 6 mins
Production CompanyNational Coal Board Film Unit
SponsorNational Coal Board

A portrait of artist-miner Tom McGuinness and his first London exhibition.

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This Mining Review item documents the first major London exhibition by Tom McGuinness (1926-2006), one of the most celebrated artists to emerge from the North East's mining community. The show, at the John Whibley Gallery, would later be recognised as a major breakthrough for McGuinness in terms of securing him recognition from the national media.

In 1944, at the age of eighteen, McGuinness became a 'Bevin Boy', conscripted by the government to work as a miner in order to replace experienced miners who had been conscripted in turn to fight in the armed forces. Despite the involuntary nature of his original hiring, McGuinness took to mining, which remained his main profession until 1983, when he retired following the death of his wife.

But by then he had already become well established as an artist. In the 1940s, his supervisor at the mine had seen some of his sketches and recommended that he take lessons at the Darlington School of Art. In 1958, he had his first exhibition, in the unpromising surroundings of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation in London. His paintings were evocative, almost Expressionist studies of life down the pit, notable for their dignified, unromanticised view of the miners at their centre.

Following the exhibition documented by Mining Review, McGuinness' reputation steadily grew. He had numerous other one-man shows, and his art was the subject of two books, 'Tom McGuinness: The Art of an Underground Miner' (1997) and 'McGuinness' (2006) both by Robert McManners and Gillian Wales. In addition to his paintings, he designed the stained glass windows at his local church, St Mary's, in Bishop Auckland. He died in 2006, just before the opening of what was intended to be an 80th birthday retrospective.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
Complete item (5:31)
Complete newsreel (9:29)
Mining Review 25/9: Flashpoint (1972)
Miners Above Ground
Mining Review: 25th Year (1971-72)