Pitman Painter – Oliver Kilbourn

Oliver Percival Kilbourn was a member of the inspirational group the Pitman Painters.  Born on this date in 1904, Kilbourn was a  British coal miner, painter, and founding member of the Ashington Group, otherwise known as the Pitman Painters.

Widely considered to be the group’s best-known artist, Kilbourn used his experience of  working as a miner to depict images of the world around him.

The Ashington Group  was a small society of artists based in Ashington, Northumberland (my home county!).  The men met regularly between 1934 and 1984 and despite the difficult conditions in which they lived – working class lives, hard, dangerous and manual work with long hours they became celebrated in the British art world of the 1930s and 1940s.

Wanting to educate themselves they started out as the Ashington branch of the Workers Educational Association, taking evening classes in various subjects but found a real love when they turned their attention to art appreciation.

The WEA and Durham University arranged for a tutor for the group, and painter and teacher Robert Lyon started by teaching the men about professional artists but switched tact and suggested that the men should try creating their own paintings as a means to develop an understanding and appreciation of art.  By the early 1940s they had exhibited in London.

A successful play toured the UK a few years ago and we were looking enough to see it when it opened in London –

There is a good summary of The Pitmen Painters here


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