Artist LS Lowry refused his knighthood because he did not want to "change his situation", his former friend has said.
The Salford painter, who refused five honours in his lifetime, turned down the title after being offered it in the 1968 New Year's Honours List.
Fellow artist Harold Riley said his friend had told him it was not because he had "anything against the system".
"He indicated that he didn't wish to change his situation by something being latched on to him," he said.
Mr Riley was speaking after a list of those who declined an honour between 1951 and 1999, and who have since died, was published for the first time.
It revealed that LS Lowry was the person who had refused the most honours, turning down five between 1955 and 1976.
These included an OBE in the 1955 Birthday Honours List and a CBE in the 1961 New Year's List.
Mr Riley was a friend of the popular artist for many years after meeting him while he was a student.
He said Lowry had been a "very private person and confided in very few people", something which impacted on his decision to refuse the knighthood.
"A person who is private in their own life has got the entitlement to remain like that," he said.
"If some public body decides to honour them, that is one thing, but if somebody feels that by them doing that, they change your status in the eyes of the public, well, that wouldn't have suited him.
"We did discuss this issue once and he indicated that he didn't wish to change his situation by something being latched on to him.
"I didn't say anything to him - he wasn't a person that very easily confided in anybody and I think he just wanted me to know that it was not because he had anything against the system.
"He said he would have accepted a companionship of honour, but he didn't want to change his situation."
Lowry was offered a place in the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1972 and 1976, both of which he turned down.
Mr Riley said he did not know why the artist had changed his mind on accepting that honour.