Discovery of almost 2,000 pieces of unseen artwork by former labourer

Richard Gardham has created 2,000 piece of artwork about the mining community in South Elmsall.
Richard Gardham has created 2,000 piece of artwork about the mining community in South Elmsall.

The sister of a former South Elmsall labourer has discovered nearly 2,000 unseen pieces of his artwork and is exhibiting a collection inspired by life in mining communities.

The Pub and Working Life, on display in The Golden Ball pub in York, includes 38 paintings and drawings produced by the late Richard Gardham, who was brought up on Allott Close.

It shows the community at work and at play in the area from 1960 until 2005.

Mr Gardham’s art was found in his bungalow by his siblings following his death last year. His sister, Angela Gardham, 65, has curated the first public exhibition of his work.

She said: “It is the first time anybody has seen Dick’s work. He was a very private person and very particular about who he let into his artwork. We are starting now right at the beginning of the process of getting him known.

“He left behind 1,888 drawings and paintings. I took them on and scanned them all so they would never be lost.

“I decided the work that I chose from this vast quantity of art would be to do with pub life and working life because the people who go to The Golden Ball are busy working people who like a drink.”

Ms Gardham said Mr Gardham, a demolition worker and builder’s labourer, worked and drank alongside the subjects of his art and is frequently depicted in the scenes he painted.

Mr Gardham’s nephew Joe said: “The work shows the mining history of South Elmsall, in particular the skill, resourcefulness and self-sufficiency of the miners and their families.”

In the 1960s the young Richard Gardham, one of ten siblings, travelled to London and the Scilly Isles.

For a time he lived in J.G. Bennett’s Institute at Coombe Springs, a centre for the study of philosophy and history. His interest in philosophy inspired his later work.

The exhibition, which runs until August 22, is open from 5pm until 11pm on weekdays and from noon until 11pm on weekends.

Ms Gardham is hoping to exhibit more of Mr Gardham’s work in South Elmsall library in September. She plans to showcase a set of drawings from 1961-1962 showing men and women who worked at the fireworks factory in Frickley.