Conman admits £35,000 pitman painter fraud over fake Norman Cornish artwork

A genuine Norman Cornish
A genuine Norman Cornish

A conman has admitted a £35,000 fraud involving Norman Cornish artwork.


Richard Pearson claimed he had genuine work by the 'pitman painter', who died in 2014, for sale on behalf of a family member.

The 56-year-old, of Thomas Street North, Sunderland, had receipts from the Stone Gallery in Newcastle, dated from the 1960s, to prove authenticity to potential buyers.

Newcastle Crown Court heard today the artwork, and the receipts to prove authenticity, were all fake.

Pearson pleaded guilty to nine charges of fraud, two of forgery and two of using a false instrument with intent.

The fraud charges date between December 2011 and February 2013 and relate to him claiming to be "in possession of genuine piece of artwork by Norman
Cornish you wished sell on behalf of a family member".

The forgery and false instrument offences relate to him making and using the fake receipts between December 2011 and February 2014.

Paul Currer, defending, told the court: "The crown assert, in summary, the charges reflect in the region of £35,00 was benefited by the fraudulent
activity of the defendant."

Mr Currer asked that the case be adjourned for three months so Pearson can gather medical evidence regarding his poor health and attempt to raise money.

He added: "He wishes to be able to raise funds to pay compensation.

"I ask to adjourn the case for three months so that the defendant could raise funds, or raise as many funds as he could, to be able to pay compensation."

Judge Stephen Earl agreed to adjourn the case for two months, until January 24 next year, and ordered the preparation of a pre-sentence report in the meantime.

The judge said: "There is concern he decides to draw something in the meantime, and I don't mean, necessarily, his pension."

Judge Earl said Pearson could have bail until the case is back at court.

Norman Cornish, of Spennymoor, County Durham, was the last surviving artist of the Pitman's Academy at The Spennymoor Settlement.

The settlement was set up in 1930, giving mining families access to the arts and Mr Cornish was one of its most famous students.

Cornish spent 13 years working in mines before embarking on his art career at the age of 47.

His work involved nostalgic pictures of ordinary life.

Norman Cornish

Norman Cornish