Maggi Hambling refuses to be pigeonholed.
Born in 1945 in rural Suffolk, Hambling has said that at the age of fourteen, ‘art came into my life as quite a shock.’ Hambling’s true artistic devotion of her practise is painting. As one of Britain’s greatest artists, Hambling studied at the Amberfield School, the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, Ipswich School of Art, Camberwell and the Slade Art Schools in London. As the first artist in residence at The National Gallery in 1980, Hambling is still to this day, usually photographed with a cigarette in hand, defined as Hambling’s views on the importance of one’s freedom of choice.
Originality is at the centre of all Hambling’s works. The extraordinary thread linking the work and the artist is Hambling’s unapologetic authenticity. Hambling’s powerful, emotional and ferocious character is integrated with her materials and is fully composed in paint on canvas. Hambling has the ability to take themes of war, death and global disaster and force the viewer to reflect upon themselves and their own actions. It is the process of making for Hambling that sets her apart; through turbulence and incredible colour, painting’s immediacy is awakened, saying, ‘the crucial thing that only painting can do is to make you feel as if you’re there while it’s being created – as if it’s happening in front of you.’
every portrait is a bit like a love affair,
I mean, it’s a very intimate thing
- Maggi Hambling
Maggi Hambling & Sarah Lucas
Artists Maggi Hambling and Sarah Lucas were first introduced to each other by their mutual friend, Sebastian Horsley, at the Colony Room in 2005. The two formidable artists remain friends, today, and have inspired each other in their compelling works.
Hambling's portrait, ‘Sarah Lucas II’ captures the conceptual artist in the frame, who presides over a composition of diverse elements that appear as allusions to her own work. The egg, shoe, banana, and soft sculptures, to name a few, are all executed within a wonderful movement and waves of paint. Hambling's portrait reveals a true sensitivity to Sarah Lucas and her artistic achievements.
Hambling explains, ‘A portrait is made with the eye, the hand and the heart. And the most important is the heart.’ Hambling’s unending adventure using oil paint allows her to create compassionate and incisive works that are visceral, serious and witty – revealing the human condition. This work is a celebration of portraiture and its ongoing possibilities which have been a fundamental part of Hambling’s practice since the beginning of her artistic career.
Maggi HamblingSarah Lucas II, 2013Oil on canvas152.4 x 121.9 cm
(60 x 48 inches)
Oil paint is one of my favourite things, this
stuff, in this tube, this sexy stuff which is
alive itself, is what I live with and battle with
- Maggi Hambling
Maggi Hambling & Sebastian Horsely
‘Every portrait is a bit like a love affair’, says Maggi Hambling, ‘it is 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.
‘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 Horsely, 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.
Henrietta MOREAS was a force of nature, you
know, she was named as the queen of Soho
- Maggi Hambling
Maggi HamblingHenrietta Mask, 1999Oil on wood53 x 54 cm
Maggi Hambling & Henrietta Moraes
Henrietta Moraes, also known as ‘Hen’, was the muse for many artists including Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon and later Maggi Hambling.
Infamous for her hedonistic lifestyle, she became a fixture at the Colony Room Club. It wasn’t until much later in Moraes’ life that she struck up a passionate and artistic relationship with Maggi Hambling – posing for the artist most Monday’s in her final seven months.
Hambling explains, ‘Henrietta was one of the people I went on painting after she died, as with George Melly [another friend], as with my father. It is a habit of mine to go on making portraits of them, because if you’ve loved someone, the person goes on being alive inside us all. It is where artists are lucky, because they have a positive way of grieving, it is ironic, of course, because you are trying to make a portrait with as much life as possible of someone who is dead.’
Moraes’ gaze almost pierces the viewer’s soul as Hambling poetically captures the essence of her lost lover.
Tales from the Colony Room: Art and BohemiaTales from the Colony recounts the genesis of the modern and contemporary art scene that was cultivated by the artists who passed through the doors of the Colony Rooms, the infamous private members club for artists and writers in London. The exhibition presents works of art by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, R. B. Kitaj, F. N. Souza, Frank Auerbach, John Deakin, Daniel Farson, Bruce Bernard, Nina Hamnett, Isabel Rawsthorne, Michael Clark, Sir Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield, Darren Coffield, Daniel Chadwick, Amelia Troubridge, David Bailey, Sarah Lucas, Maggi Hambling, and many more Modern and Contemporary British artists.
Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.
- Maggi Hambling
Maggi Hambling: Artist in Focus