Born in Sudbury, Suffolk in 1945, British painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling CBE, is best known for her expressive portraits and sublime depictions of landscapes and seascapes. She studied first locally at Cedric Morris’ and Lett Haines’ East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, before going to the Ipswich (1962-64), Camberwell (1964-67) and Slade (1967-69) Schools of Art; she has since established her reputation as one of Britain’s most significant, yet controversial artists. In 1980 she was invited to be the first artist in a new programme launched by the then Director of the National Gallery, Michael Levey, to have a contemporary artist in residence in the gallery. In 1981 the artist saw Max Wall in his own one-man show ‘Aspects of Max Wall’ and was so moved that she asked to do his portrait. The eventual result after two years was 15 paintings and 23 studies which were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 1983.
Her work on the portrait of Max Wall has come to exemplify her approach to a chosen theme or project. Following the award of the Jerwood Prize for Painting (jointly with Patrick Caulfield) in 1995, she was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create a memorial to Oscar Wilde. The resulting exhibition at that Gallery in 1997 encompassed eight paintings, eight maquettes, nine working drawings, the full-size (reclining) memorial sculpture, and fifteen further drawings around the subject. In 2003 she installed the large, upright Scallop sculpture (over 4 metres square) on Aldeburgh beach, to commemorate the composer Benjamin Britten’s life in the town. The sculpture captures the sounds of the sea for passing visitors, which Britten himself had so effectively depicted in music in his opera Peter Grimes. Hambling would later follow this up in 2013 with a painted opus on Britten’s War Requiem, including 34 small canvasses of ‘Victims’, 16 of ‘Battlefields’, and a miscellany of related paintings and drawings on the theme of war. Like her renowned, gigantic wave paintings, Hambling’s etchings and her initial series of Wall of Water monotypes - first exhibited in a solo exhibition in 2013 at the Hermitage, St Petersburg - find their origins in her experiences of waves crashing into the sea at Southwold, Suffolk where she was born and still lives. Unlike etching or lithography, monotype printing produces only one impression from the plate; these unique works, printed with Frank Connelly at Morley College, are poised between animation and disintegration, flickering ghosts of people and animals appear and disappear within them as they challenge the sea wall below. Hambling remains a singular contemporary force whose work continues to confront and seduce.
She has had numerous solo exhibitions since 1980, and besides those at the National Gallery (1981 & 2014) and the National Portrait Gallery (1983 & 2009), others have included The Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (1981), the Yorkshire Sculpture park (1997), Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal (2007), The Lowry, Salford (2009), Walker Arts Gallery, Liverpool (2009), The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (2010), Winchester Cathedral (2013), The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (2013), Somerset House (2015), The British Museum, London (2016) The Jerwood Gallery (2018) and CAFA Art Museum, Beijing (2019).