Photos of Wigan
Photos of Wigan

Wigan Album



Theodore Major, the Wigan born Artist 1908 - 1999
Photo: Keith
Views: 3,242
Item #: 25460
A photo of Theodore Major taken from Sefton Samuels book, “Northeners - Portrait of a no-nonsense people”.
Theodore Major was born in Wigan in 1908. He had two brothers and four sisters. His father and mother both worked in a cotton mill. Theodore left school at 13 and worked in a tailor's shop, but poor health eventually led to him losing his job. He early on suffered three bouts of rheumatic fever.
Major insisted that he was essentially self-taught as an artist. In 1952 he founded and for some years ran the Wigan Art Club in a room above the Crofters' Arms - it was a discussion group. He and his wife Kathleen lived at Appley Bridge from 1950.
One critic commented that he “was an English artist who was considered a great individualist in the British art world.” The art critic and novelist and John Berger called Major's pictures "among the best English paintings of our time".
Major was an uncompromising Northener refusing to sell his paintings and storing them in the next door house, he had over 3,000.
The following extract is taken from his obituary in January 1999, published in the Independent…...
He declined to sell pictures, saying "not to the people who want them, the rich people". Neither was Major interested in courting national fame. Nevertheless, periodically the press's spotlight picked him out, as in 1992, when he refused to pay a poll tax bill of almost pounds 1,900. Although he had already settled in full for the house he lived in near Wigan, he declined to pay three years' arrears for the one next door, which he used as a store. Having failed to seize goods in lieu of payment - Major told the bailiff to jump in the canal - the council applied to have him committed to prison.
When they heard that Major had no savings and lived on the state pension, then pounds 56 a week, the magistrates decided that, in view of his income, his age - 85 - and health it would be unjust to jail him. The arrears would be remitted, so that he would have nothing to pay. They then shook his hand and wished him good health.
His paintings are often sold today by Christies fetching anything from £10,000 to £40,000.

Comment by: Mick on 16th August 2014 at 17:51

I knew him better than Geoffrey Shryhane

Hes buried in Parbold churchyard.

Comment by: Jack on 17th August 2014 at 20:31

A very over rated artist indeed.

Comment by: Frank on 18th August 2014 at 09:16

His honesty and integrity were never in question, he never sold his work - opinions on the work of artists are two a penny.

Comment by: jmac on 18th August 2014 at 13:47

I worked for a dentist in Wigan in the 1970's. He paid home visits to Mr Major and I usually accompanied him. His home was a wreck with canvases everywhere but although he was regarded as quite curmudgeonly He was always quite charming to me.

Comment by: irene roberts on 18th August 2014 at 21:12

I'm afraid his paintings did nothing for me, same with Isherwood's. We all see things differently, though, and there was never a truer saying than "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

Comment by: Lenny on 19th August 2014 at 12:04

Wait a minute Jack - to have an opinion is all well and good but to have an accolade from John Berger is somewhat different to the "man in the street". John Berger was an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet. His novel G. won the 1972 Booker Prize, and his essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a BBC series, is often used as a university text. But there again I bet you're still not impressed.

Comment by: Jack on 19th August 2014 at 14:10

No not really, Lenny. Even less impressed with your John Berger Wiki copy and paste reply, matey. It would appear you forget that the "man in the street" is the most important being on the planet, he is the one that 'does'. My opinion as a "man in the street" of which I am entitled still stands.

Comment by: Lenny on 19th August 2014 at 17:29

Of course your important verdict stands Jack and is valid, I never said it wasn't, I'm merely putting it into context as you have so neatly done.

Comment by: Fank on 19th August 2014 at 21:01

John Berger was as honest and perceptive as anyone you'd wish to meet in any street. I'm old enough to have watched all his famous and renowned tv series - they don't give Booker prizes away to idiots, despite what some would say.

Comment by: Anne on 24th August 2014 at 11:55

I used to work with his sister and we made the paint orders up for her to take to him.

Comment by: barry w on 24th August 2014 at 13:56

Hi Jack, I bet what you know about painting you would be able to write it on the back of a tanner with a felt tip, Ps His pictures sell for thousands of pounds.

Comment by: Jack on 25th August 2014 at 09:16

Barry W, just because paintings sell for silly amounts does not make them good. His paintings are awful and most show Wigan as a horrid place, he was a limited painter and as I said very over rated. Not sure about his "pictures" though, never knew he did photography. I suspect I know far more of art than someone who can't distinguish between a painting and a picture. Keep the "tanner" matey, you may need it to write your thought on trying to be clever with a person for having an opinion that differs from others.

Comment by: Frank on 25th August 2014 at 14:53

Agreed Jack - money is not the sole arbiter of what makes art “good” however neither does the view of our “man in the street” - John Berger is a very well qualified and world renowned art critic - his view is well informed and your “matey” man in the street (of which I’m one) is quite entitled to his view but it’s likely to be based on ignorance, simply because he’s unlikely to know what he’s talking about - not you of course since you claim to know more than most.

Comment by: Jack on 25th August 2014 at 20:04

Glad you recognised that fact, Frank.

Comment by: Frank on 25th August 2014 at 21:01

Confirmation Jack, not that confirmation was needed, that as far as you’re concerned ignorance really is bliss.

Comment by: Michael on 26th August 2014 at 12:32

Any work of art cannot be separated from the artist who produced it. The search for truth is an eternal one in the art world- integrity, unfailing commitment to beliefs etc., Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime - Major never sold any as far as I can discover - his commitment and belief never wavered throughout his whole life. The value placed on his work is based on the work AND the artist who produced it - Wigan should be proud of its artist son.

Comment by: Jack on 26th August 2014 at 16:13

Oh deary me, Frank.

Comment by: Frank on 27th August 2014 at 15:28

Jack you've made a typo - the word is dreary.

Leave a comment?

* Enter the 5 digit code to the right of the input box. Don't worry if you make a mistake, you will get another chance. Your comments won't be lost.