British, 1908-1999

In 1951, the Arts Council held a travelling exhibition featuring the work of two of Lancashire's best and most prominent artists. One was LS Lowry, the other was Theodore Major.  Lowry developed national and international fame and became a national treasure, Major became largely forgotten.

 

While Lowry cultivated the commercial gallery system assiduously, Major withdrew from the commercial world and began to refuse to sell his pictures, "to the people who want them, the rich people". A compulsive painter, Major had to buy the house next door to his as a store, which at the time of his death housed approximately 3,000 paintings. He used a small front bedroom, with a good light, as a studio and used the house next door as a gallery where the general public were welcome to view his paintings for free.

 

Major is noted for his grim depictions of Wigan streets and factories, pictures of children, of lonely seascapes, of nudes and nightmare imaginations. The art critic and novelist John Berger called Major's pictures "among the best English paintings of our time"

 

Since his death, Major's reputation has been in the ascendancy. Retrospectives of his work were held at Salford Museum and Art Gallery in 2003 and Gallery Oldham in 2008. In 2015 the Atkinson Gallery held a joint exhibition - LS Lowry and Theodore Major: Two Lancashire Painters - reprising the 1951 show and cementing Major's status as one of the most important Lancashire artists of the 20th Century.