Karen Smith on 'The Pitmen Painters'

Karen Smith, our indefatigable editorial director, is also a painter who has written several sensitive art reviews for our Culture section, including this week's review of Fernando Botero's searing "Abu Ghraib" series.  In our online Culture section this week, she turns her attention to a "ferociously affecting" new play, about an unlikely group of artists, the "Pitmen Painters."  Here's the lede:

One need not be interested in painting, mining or things British to enjoy “The Pitmen Painters,” an often funny and at times ferociously affecting new play currently on Broadway. The play was written by Lee Hall, whose screenplay and book for “Billy Elliot: The Musical” (still running) won the 2009 Tony Award.

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Hall’s two plays have some aspects in common: both take place in the austere coal-mining district of northern Britain; both are based on true stories; and both concern manly men who, stretched by circumstances, take up a cultural pursuit uncommon to their class—ballet in “Billy Elliot,” oil painting in “Pitmen.”

The play is inspired by William Feaver’s book, Pitmen Painters, about a group of miners in Northumberland who, thanks to an art-appreciation class, began to paint. In the 1930s and 1940s, the work of the Ashington Group, as they called themselves, was exhibited internationally and acclaimed widely.

Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ

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