Walls of Water: Maggi Hambling

The National Gallery celebrated the return of Maggi Hambling CBE, its first Artist in Residence over a year ago. Here is an overview of the exhibition, her life and work.

Experience the intensity of crashing waves in vast, new works by one of Britain’s most distinguished contemporary artists.  Maggi Hambling began her continuing series of ‘Walls of Water’ paintings in 2010 that currently consist of eight works expansive in scale, measuring over six by seven feet. A ninth smaller canvas is also a part of the production in response to the death of Amy Winehouse in 2011.

Maggi Hambling, 1994 (b/w photo), Jorge Lewinski (1921-2008) / Private Collection / © The Lewinski Archive at Chatsworth
Maggi Hambling, 1994 (b/w photo), Jorge Lewinski (1921-2008) / Private Collection / © The Lewinski Archive at Chatsworth
Seascape and lighthouse, 1848 (oil on canvas), Peder Balke (1804-87) / Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden
Seascape and lighthouse, 1848 (oil on canvas), Peder Balke (1804-87) / Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden

“The one 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.”

‘Walls of Water’ have their origins in the artist’s experience of big waves crashing onto the sea wall at Southwold – Suffolk being Maggi Hambling’s birthplace and often an inspiration for her creative work.

The waves, poised with exuberant colours and abrupt contrasts, speak at a fundamental level of the cycle of life and death: flickering ghosts of people and animals appearing dramatically within them.

Scallop – a celebration of Benjamin Britten

The sculpture ‘Scallop‘ is a 4-metre high steel sculpture of two interlocking scallop shells permanently sited on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. It is dedicated to the musician-composer Benjamin Britten for which Hambling was awarded the first Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture.

 Scallop, 2003 (stainless steel), Maggi Hambling / Aldeburgh beach, Suffolk, UK
Scallop, 2003 (stainless steel), Maggi Hambling / Aldeburgh beach, Suffolk, UK

In 2013 Maggi Hambling was the subject of a solo presentation at the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg. She began her series of North Sea Paintings began at the end of November 2002 during the period between the conception of Scallop and its execution.

Hambling has made a film for the BBC’s ‘Made In England’ project recording, diary-style, her relationship with the North Sea in Suffolk. Watch it here.

I draw the sea early each morning in much the same way as a pianist practises scales.

Self Portrait in Gallery, 1986 (oil on canvas), Maggi Hambling / Private Collection
Self Portrait in Gallery, 1986 (oil on canvas), Maggi Hambling / Private Collection

Short Biography

Maggi Hambling OBE traces her love of the sea back to her childhood. Born in Suffolk in 1945, she is a distinguished painter and sculptor who has become a household name in British art, most notably for her expressive portraits of cultural icons.  A graduate of the Slade School in 1980, Hambling was the First Artist In Residence at the National Gallery and her portraits of George Melly and Max Wall are among her iconic paintings that hang there. Hambling is represented in all major British collections, such as the British Museum and Tate Modern. Among her many other roles, she is a trustee of The Artists’ Collecting Society which is affiliated to the Bridgeman Images.

George Melly, 1998 (oil no canvas), Maggi Hambling / National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
George Melly, 1998 (oil no canvas), Maggi Hambling / National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Find out more

Maggi Hambling: Walls of Water at The National Gallery. 26 November 2014 – 15 February 2015

Hambling is a Bridgeman Copyright Artist. View high resolution images for licensing by Maggi Hambling.

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