Maggi Hambling was born in Suffolk in 1945, and she is an eminent name in British art. She first studied at Benton End, Suffolk, under the painters Lett Haines and Cedric Morris, who had previously taught Lucian Freud. She continued her studies at Ipswich School of Art and then attended both the Camberwell School of Art and Crafts, and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She became the first Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in 1980-81 and her portraits of George Melly and Max Wall hang in the National Portrait Gallery. Other public collections holding her work include the British Museum, the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery in London as well as the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. She was awarded a CBE in 2010.
A monograph Maggi Hambling The Works and Conversations with Andrew Lambirth was published in 2006 (Unicorn Press). A close friend of George Melly - George Always - her memorial exhibition of paintings of the legendary jazz singer was shown at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in 2009. This major museum exhibition also included the silk-screen print George Melly Singing, which she published with IAP Fine Art in 2006, launched by George Melly and Stephen Fry.
Her public sculpture Scallop (2003), a monument to the composer Benjamin Britten, stands on Aldeburgh beach, Suffolk. The four-metre-high (13 ft) steel sculpture is pierced with the words "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" from his opera Peter Grimes.
From 1998 to 2006, Maggi Hambling combined with IAP Fine Art to publish several editions of silk-screen prints to raise funds for Terrence Higgins Trust, helping people with HIV and AIDS. The first of these was Portrait of Derek Jarman, which was published in 1998 and launched by the artist and George Melly in London. In 2006, Maggi Hambling worked with IAP Fine Art again to publish a further two print editions, George Melly Singing and Stephen Fry Musing, launched by George Melly and Stephen Fry at IAP Fine Art, London.
The North Sea has become her main muse of recent years and the resulting paintings, drawings and prints have been exhibited widely to great critical acclaim. Notable examples are her 2010 one-person exhibition Maggi Hambling: The Wave, displayed at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. This was followed by Maggi Hambling: Wall of Water, another solo show during May and July 2013 at the prestigious Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia . This exhibition was very well received by both the Russian public and press. A variant of this show - Walls of Water - was then held in Britain at the National Callery, London, from November 2014 until February 2015.
Maggi Hambling created the design for a new set of tapestries for the High Altar at Winchester Cathedral, which were formally dedicated in July 2013. To achieve her designs she collaborated with Ateliers Pinton - the French tapestry workshop in the Aubusson region which has worked with artists such as Picasso, Miro, Léger and Sutherland (for Coventry Cathedral).
Maggi Hambling - Touch : Works on Paper was a major solo exhibition at the British Museum, London, 8 September 2016 - 29 January 2017. Following recent articles and interviews including Vogue ; Maggi Hambling showed with Sarah Lucas in The Quick & The Dead at the Jerwood Gallery. She recently accepted a major public commission for a memorial sculpture commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft in north London. In 2019, her major museum retrospective For Beauty Is Nothing But A Thing Of Terror (her first solo museum exhibition in China) at the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Beijing toured to Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou.
In 2020, Maggi Hambling's portrait of Andy Murray was unveiled and displayed at the National Portrait Gallery, London.