Major was born in 1864 in Washington, D.C. He was a portrait, figure and still-life painter and pastelist; teacher. Major first studied art with E.C. Messer at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and in 1882 entered the New York Art Students’ League, studying with William Merritt Chase. Two years later he won the Hallgarten Prize and an opportunity to study in Europe for three years. He entered the Academie Julian and in 1885 first exhibited his work at the Salon.

Major came to Boston in late 1888 and began to teach at the Cowles Art School, replacing Dennis Bunker. He was soon exhibiting locally at the Jordan Marsh Art Gallery and the Boston Art Club. In 1896 he began to teach drawing and painting at the Massachusetts Normal Art School. He married Estelle Leighton, who had modeled for him in his most successful paintings, but after a few years she left him to become an opera singer. Major devoted himself to teaching and remained at the Normal School for forty-six years; he exhibited regularly at the National Annuals and locally at the Guild of Boston Artists. He won a silver medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 and the Pennsylvania Academy’s Bok Prize in 1917. His execution was always fluid, whether applied to pale landscapes, rich still lifes, or stridently colored figure works.


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