A spectacular event in the art world, Collect Art will be hosting an art exhibition of the famous northern artist Theodore Major on Friday 10th September. For the first time in years there will be a collection of work for sale with over twenty pieces available. Beginning at 7.00pm, this promises to be a truly inspiring evening and a real eye opener to the world of art by a hugely talented man who claimed that “painting is my life and art is my religion”.
Major was born in Wigan in 1908, where he lived with his mother, father, two brothers and four sisters. Major left school at the age of 13 and worked in a tailor’s shop. The rest of his family worked in a cotton mill. Major was proud of his provinciality and working class roots which we later began to see in the display of his work.
He was originally a self-taught artist, although he later attended evening classes at Wigan Art School where he eventually studied full-time. He also did some part-time teaching at the school and at various adult education classes. Major then founded and ran the Wigan Art Club for several years after. This is where he met his future wife Kathleen. They married in 1940 and had a daughter in 1944 named Mary. They settled in their family home in Appley Bridge near Wigan, and remained there for the rest of their lives.
With work described by art critics as “among the best English paintings of our time” Major would paint in a wide range of styles with a declared aim “to disturb and extend consciousness in the mind of the viewer.” He was renowned for his grim expression of the streets and factory scenes of Wigan, claiming that in the northern scene he would “see great beauty”. With Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Blake and Rouault amongst his influences, Major delivered pictures of children, lonely seascapes and nightmarish paintings of dreams. He also produced a series of paintings on the atom bomb as “a warning and comment on the foolishness and stupidity of modern man.”
Major was a fervent Lancastrian who was against materialism and the commercial gallery system. He had no interest in painting for money; all he hoped was that his work would win the attention of ordinary people and children. Major retained about 3000 of his pictures for which he had to buy the house next door to keep them in and he would refuse to do business with rich collectors claiming he would not sell “to the people who want them, the rich people.” Instead he would allow visitors to come view his pieces in his private gallery which was in fact the small front room with a good light. He claimed he had “no ambition to see my work hanging on stately walls, or in private or public collections. I have no wish to see them framed in gold.”
Despite his attempt to withdraw from the publicity and commercialism of the art world, Major’s reputation grew. Both the Daily Mail and the Manchester Guardian featured his cartoons, and he showed with the Manchester Academy, with Margo Ingham’s Mid-Day Studios and the Crane Gallery. L.S Lowry, a close contemporary artist, shared an exhibition with him, and Major also featured in Arts Council-sponsored solo shows at Carlisle and Blackburn Art Galleries. There are a limited number of galleries with his work now, with Manchester City Art Gallery, Turnpike Gallery in Leigh, Salford Art Gallery and Lancashire Mining Museum amongst the lucky few. Major expressed in his will that he hoped a trust would conserve his huge collection.
The work of Theodore Major is now being discovered and admired by many art collectors; particularly his vibrant flower pieces and powerful displays of the industrial scene. Come and experience the work of one of the best British painters of our time at Collect Art on Friday 10th September at 7.00pm.