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 Maggi Hambling  (1945 - )

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: Portrait, land-and seascape painting, sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Margaret J. (Maggi) Hambling (born 1945)

Born at Sudbury, Suffolk on 23 October 1945, daughter of Harry Hambling and his wife Marjorie née Harris who married at Hadleigh, Suffolk in 1933.  An English painter and sculptor, perhaps her best known public works are a memorial to Oscar Wilde in central London and Scallop, on the Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk dedicated to Benjamin Britten, both works have proved controversial.

Educated at Amberfield School, Nacton, Suffolk where her art teacher Yvonne Drewey, described her as being her ‘pride and joy’.  Hambling then studied at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing from 1960 under [Sir] Cedric Morris (1889-1982) and Arthur Lett-Haines (1884-1978), Ipswich School of Art 1962–1964, Camberwell College of Arts 1964-1967 and finally the Slade School of Art graduating in 1969.  In 1980, Hambling became the first Artist in Residence at the National Gallery, London, during which time produced a series of portraits of the comedian Max Wall.  Wall responded to Hambling's request to paint him with a note saying: "Re: painting little me, I am flattered indeed - what colour?".

Hambling is well known as a portraitist with several works in the National Portrait Gallery, London.  Her style tends towards the expressionistic, with some portraits completed during live sittings and others painted later, partly from memory.  During the 1980s she made a series of Suffolk Sunrise paintings, of the Orwell Estuary and Hadleigh.  On November 30 2002, during the pause between making the maquette for Scallop and its realisation, her dramatic seascapes of the North Sea were begun.  In 1995, she was awarded the Jerwood Painting Prize along with Patrick Caulfield.  In the same year she was awarded an OBE for her services to painting.

Hambling is openly lesbian and her choice of subjects for portraits over the years has included many other openly gay people, such as Derek Jarman, George Melly, Stephen Fry and Quentin Crisp.  In 1998 and in 2006, she collaborated with International Academic Projects Fine Art, London, to publish editions of silk-screen prints of her portraits of Jarman, Melly and Fry (launched by Stephen Fry and George Melly) to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust, helping people with HIV and AIDS.  In the late 1990s Hambling had an intimate relationship with the 'Soho beauty' Henrietta Moraes (1931-1999) as Moraes' life was drawing to a close.  Hambling described her as her muse.  In 2003 Hambling was commissioned to produce a sculpture to commemorate Benjamin Britten. The result was Scallop, a pair of oversized, 12 ft (3.7 m) high, steel scallop shells installed on Aldeburgh beach.  The sculpture has caused some division amongst the local community with some complaining that the sculpture obstructs the view or is an eyesore that should be moved to Snape, whilst others say that it enhances the view and is a fitting commemoration of Britten that helps to attract tourists.  In the first three months of 2004, the sculpture was twice vandalized by pouring paint over it and a poll in the local paper was held to decide whether it should be moved, the result was 2,163 to 738 in favor of keeping the sculpture.  The sculpture has been compared with Nissen hut wreckage or a kitsch mantelpiece ornament.  Hambling did not herself make the sculpture: it was produced by a local foundry from a four-inch (102 mm) model supplied by the artist.  This sculpture continues to attract controversy, vandalism and opposition from the local community, who seem to object more to where it has been sited than its visual appearance.

Hambling was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 New Year Honors.  Hambling is represented in public collections throughout the UK, including The British Museum, The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
 
Information provided by Tony Copsey, author and researcher of artists in Suffolk County, England
 


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