Maggi Hambling

Hambling's Scallop (2003) stands on the north end of Aldeburgh beach. It is a tribute to Benjamin Britten and is pierced with the words "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" from his opera Peter Grimes.

Maggi Hambling CBE (born 23 October 1945 in Sudbury, Suffolk[1]) is an English painter and sculptor. Perhaps her best known public works are a memorial to Oscar Wilde in central London and Scallop, a 4 metre high steel sculpture of two interlocking scallop shells on Aldeburgh beach dedicated to Benjamin Britten. Both works have proved controversial.

Hambling studied at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing from 1960 under Cedric Morris, then at Ipswich School of Art (1962–4), Camberwell (1964-7), and finally the Slade School of Art graduating in 1969.[2] In 1980, Hambling became the first Artist in Residence at the National Gallery, London, during which she 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?"[3] Yvonne Drewey, her art teacher at Amberfield School, described her as being her "pride and joy".[4]

Hambling is well known as a portraitist with several works in the National Portrait Gallery, London.[5] Her style tends towards the expressionistic, with some portraits completed during live sittings and others painted later, partly from memory. In the 1980s, she turned more to painting landscapes, most especially of the area around Suffolk where she lives. More recently her canvases have been more abstract, often including highlights of vivid colour, in particular her dramatic Seascapes of the North Sea.

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, A Conversation with Oscar Wilde (1998), green granite and bronze, Adelaide Street, near Trafalgar Square, London

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 IAP 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.[6] In the late 1990s Hambling had an intimate relationship with the 'Soho beauty' Henrietta Moraes as Moraes' life was drawing to a close. Hambling described her as her muse.[7]

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. Hambling describes the piece as a conversation with the sea:

"An important part of my concept is that at the centre of the sculpture, where the sound of the waves and the winds are focused, a visitor may sit and contemplate the mysterious power of the sea,"[8]

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 vandalised by pouring paint over it and a poll in the local paper was held to decide whether it should be moved, although the result was 2,163 to 738 in favour of keeping the sculpture.[9] 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.[10]

Hambling, who gave up smoking in 2004, was involved in the campaign against the total ban on smoking in public places in England which took effect on 1 July 2007. Speaking at a news conference at the House of Commons on 7 February 2007, she said: "I wholeheartedly support the campaign against a ban on smoking in public places. Just because I gave up at 59, other people may choose not to. There must be freedom of choice, something that is fast disappearing in this so-called free country." [11]

Hambling was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.[12]


  1. ^ Bredin, Lucinda (2002-05-18). "A matter of life and death". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ "Maggi Hambling biography". Tate Gallery. 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-01. 
  3. ^ Alex Clark (2006-01-22). "Hambling for the defence". London: Observer Review & Guardian Unlimited.,,1691954,00.html. Retrieved 2006-06-01. 
  4. ^ Bredin, Lucinda (2002-05-18). "A matter of life and death". Education Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited).,,717542,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  5. ^ "Maggi Hambling (1945-), Painter". National Portrait Gallery. 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-01. 
  6. ^ IAP Fine Art
  7. ^ "Maggi Hambling Biography". Retrieved 2006-06-01. 
  8. ^ "Scallop: a celebration of Benjamin Britten". OneSuffolk. Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2006-06-01. 
  9. ^ "The vocal middle-class minority are at it again". Retrieved 2006-06-01. 
  10. ^,,2236081,00.html Caroline Davies, Battle of Britten rages on the beach, The Observer, 6 January 2008
  11. ^ "Opposition to total smoking ban widens". Forest - Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco. 2007. Archived from the original on 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2007-02-07. 
  12. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59282. p. 7. 31 December 2009.


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