Archive bringing Wigan artist Major to life again

Theodore Major
Theodore Major

Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane looks back at the life of Theodore Major whose artwork now sells for tens of thousands of pounds.

I had been right to look forward to a deep mid-winter visit to the lovely village of Glossop. A light fall of snow covered the hills and more was forecast.

I was on the edge of the Pennines to see international art expert Michael Howard who has taken on the gargantuan task of writing the amazing life story of the artist from Appley Bridge who died two decades ago last week – Theodore Major.

He wrote the book on Lowry (£45) to coincide with the opening of the Lowry Arts Centre 20 years ago.

I knew Theo for years and have been able to tell of the delight of the friendship with little insights into the life of the amazing painter who Michael Howard regards as the greatest forgotten artist of the last century.

We all know throughout his painting life, Major refused to sell him work, rightly arguing that art and money were unconnected.

Over four decades, he turned down beckoning London fame, exhibitions and the rich and famous who pleaded with him to sell. He refused. It has now emerged that throughout his life,

Theo kept tens of thousands of letters, catalogues, and printed documents. Not to mention photos. All have been carefully catalogued.

I believe he kept the documents believing long after his passing, he would become famous.

Now, with the permission of Mary Major, Theo’s daughter, an art dealer has commissioned the arts writer to catalogue his life in a book which promises to reveal all on the reclusive artist whose work was often considered to be far superior to that of his fellow painter L S Lowry.

Michael Howard said: “Theo Major was an amazing man and he left a large collection of oil paintings covering all sections of his artistic life.

“This is going to be a long project and my hope is that an exhibition will come about when the book is published.

“Mr Major went against all the trends.

“Artists paint to sell. It’s always been like that. But not Theo. Selling was totally against his principles.

“There is a view that he kept all the literature and letters over all those years because he thought that one day, they would be needed to bring everything to light.”

The online art site ArtUK currently carries an article on Theo by Michael Howard. A large industrial work by Theo sold at ClarkArt in Hale, Cheshire, before Christmas for £35,000.