Crucifixion at Wigan

The work of Major is often compared to that of his contemporary and fellow northerner, L.S. Lowry. But beyond circumstance of time and place and some shared elements of visual language, their paintings are altogether different. Unlike Lowry, Major’s work is infused with a deeply spiritual vision of the area around Wigan which is simultaneously exuberant and melancholic; joyful and yet bittersweet.

In Crucifixion at Wigan, our first impression is of the bleak landscape of a grey northern industrial town. Several elongated telegraph poles rise above the lakeside where bowed men in thick coats make their way through the mist. Then we realise that the foremost pole is in fact Christ’s crucifix. His suffering on the Cross is transposed above an admittedly depressing but otherwise mundane scene of everyday life in an industrial town. This is a painting of poignant duality. Christ is shown as a simple black silhouette and there is no graphic portrayal of his physical agony, but still we are reminded of his shared human suffering, reflected in that of the hunched men below and the grey emptiness of their surroundings. At the same time the men seem unaware of the emblem of salvation above them through which their suffering is eclipsed and redeemed. In this bleak image we are reminded of the very human desolation | and despair of Christ’s sacrifice and perhaps strangely comforted.

Picture ©Mary Major Rosie Razzall