Every portrait is a bit like a love affair', says Maggi Hambling, 'It's a very intimate thing.' Her paintings are a visceral encounter, bristling with energy and intensity of engagement.
From early on in Hambling's artistic career, she became renowned for her distinctive approach to portraiture. Over the years, she has painted a range of subjects from unknown figures to notable, and larger-than-life personalities like her dear friend, Sebastian Horsely. His portrait by Hambling features in our present exhibition, Tales from the Colony Room.
'I called him my wicked son,' she recounts; he called her 'mother', in return. 'I was very fond of him, and he posed for me quite a lot.' For Hambling, the portrait is all about love, for the experience of painting is so intense: 'you have to get into this place where all your own baggage has got rid of, and the truth of the person in front of you could come through you.'
Charisma ran through Sebastian Horsley, who was an author, artist and dandy. He dedicated his life to challenging conventions with as much laughter as philosophical depth. Often dressed in his iconic red sequined suit, he embodied Soho in all of its bohemian glory. It was Sebastian who first introduced Maggi to The Colony Room.
This year marks Maggi Hambling's 75th birthday, and to celebrate the occasion, a new documentary on the artist will premier tonight, 24th October at 10 pm on BBC Two. It is a profoundly moving account of her life, told through her paintings and candid conversations. Formidable and funny, Hambling delves into her artistic liberation at art school, a memorable meeting with Francis Bacon in London's Soho, and falling in love with his muse Henrietta Moraes.
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