Celebrated artist Robert Olley condemns fake copies of famous works

One of South Tyneside's most famous artists has hit out at fraudsters who are selling fake copies of his work.

Artist Bob Olley with his new Great North Run painting
Artist Bob Olley with his new Great North Run painting

Robert Olley is known for his unique images depicting the life of South Tyneside.

His most famous piece is the Westoe Netty – and it’s this iconic image which has been replicated and sold on to those who may believe they are buying his work.

The famous Westoe Netty painting

The fraud was discovered when Bob’s daughter, Kim Olley-Scott, was tipped off his work was being sold on a social networking site without his permission.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Olley, his daughter, said: “The images are being sold for £4 each. They are not my dad’s work. All my dad’s work is signed but these copies seem to have that cut off.

“My dad has built his business up over the past 50 years and, every now and then, people do try and copy his pieces but we are always told.

“His work is so unique.”

The famous Westoe Netty painting

She added: “It’s more annoyance than anything – that someone thinks they can take people’s money on the back of work done by other people.”

The Westoe Netty was painted by Bob in 1972 and depicts a scene from inside a public toilet.

The image has become a cultural symbol of the working-class history of the North East.

The original toilet was built in 1890 and was often used by workers going to the nearby Westoe Colliery.

The toilet was dismantled and put into storage in 1996 and was later rebuilt as an exhibition at Beamish Museum in Durham.

However, it was later put back into storage after it was used by the public.

Mrs Olley-Scott added: “We have seen at least two of our prints that copies are being put up for sale without our permission.

“I would hate to think people are buying these 
images thinking they are 
my dad’s work when they aren’t.

“I think what has made it worse, is that the person lives locally, they are doing this right under us.

“When people buy from us, we always make it personal to them.”

Olley, a former miner, turned his hand to painting. He hosted two exhibitions in 1972 and it was in his second that his now famous Westoe Netty image made an appearance.

Work by Robert Olley is on display and for sale at Tyne and Wear Museums and Haven Point.

Information on his work can also be seen by visiting his facebook page robertolleyartwork