Maggi Hambling (b. 1945) Encounter: The Max Wall Series (no 13)

Maggi Hambling (b. 1945) Encounter: The Max Wall Series (no 13)


Maggi Hambling, who was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, in 1945, is a distinguished figurative painter, sculptor and printmaker. She studied under Lett Haines and Cedric Morris before attending Ipswich School of Art (1962-64) and the Camberwell School of Art (1964-67). In 1967 she entered the Slade School of Fine Art and trained there for 2 years. She has exhibited in many places including the National Gallery where she was appointed first Artist in Residence in 1980-81.Other venues have included The Serpentine Gallery in 1987, The Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut in 1991, Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury in 2000 and Marlborough Fine Art in London in 2000 and 2007

In 1997 she was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create a statue to commemorate Oscar Wilde. The commission resulted in an exhibition of related work at the National Portrait Gallery in 1997 and the unveiling of the sculpture in Adelaide Street, behind St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square. Her work can be seen in the British Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Gallery and many other public collections in the UK and abroad. Her sculpture, Scallop, for Benjamin Britten was installed on Aldeburgh beach in 2003.


It was during her time at the National Gallery that she went to see Max Wall at the Garrick Theatre. She was moved and excited by the genius of the artist, a clown and an entertainer in the old Vaudevillian tradition. After he agreed to sit to her, Hambling gradually got to know him and a friendship grew out of the relationship. Although most of the Max Wall pictures speak for themselves Encounter is more enigmatic. It was began at Max Wall’s suggestion and was originally on a much wider canvas. The summer landscape is a memory of a day spent together by the river Maidenhead. Here it becomes a private world in which Max Wall encounters a mysterious presence. Not satisfied with the pose in which she had placed Max Wall she reduced the left-hand side of the canvas and asked him to assume a pose he would have adopted in the situation in which she had placed him. The whole Max Wall series embodies simple humanity, richly inventive and imaginative fantasy; all combined as a tribute to a man who not only was a great entertainer but also the embodiment of a common man.


  • NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY exhibition catalogue Max Wall, Pictures by Maggi Hambling, 4 March to 15 May 1983
  • BERGER, J., Maggi and Henrietta: Drawings of Henrietta Moraes by Maggi Hambling, Bloomsbury, London, 2001
  • HAMBLING, M., Father (facsimile of sketchbook in the British Museum), Morley Gallery, London, 2001
  • MAGGI HAMBLING-THE WORKS and conversations with Andrew Lambirth, Unicorn Press, 2006
  • The Storm, a short film on DVD of ‘Scallop and Maggi Hambling working on Aldeburgh beach’, Makespace Film Company Ltd.

Evelyne Bell