'Good Time George' by Maggi Hambling. Copyright Maggi Hambling
Contemporary artist Maggi Hambling visited Liverpool today, to give ‘Good Time George’ - her painting of her close friend and Liverpudlian George Melly - to the Walker Art Gallery.
George was the most colourful son of Liverpool: jazz performer, surrealist, comic, raconteur, critic and author, often referred to fondly as ‘Good Time George’.
He came from a well-known Liverpool family and grew up in South Liverpool. Born in 1926, he was educated at Stow and could entertain, fascinate and outrage – often all at the same time. Remaining a frequent visitor to Liverpool throughout his life, George actively supported the city's arts. In 1997 he sat on the jury for the John Moores Painting Prize, which culminates in an exhibition of contemporary painting at the Walker Art Gallery every two years.
Maggi Hambling is one of Britain’s foremost and well known contemporary artists. In 2014 she made her return to the National Gallery, where she was their first Artist in Residence in 1980, with the exhibition Walls of Water. Earlier this year, Touch at the British Museum was an important retrospective of her works on paper and its accompanying book includes drawings of George Melly. Her latest series of paintings and sculpture, Edge, was shown at Marlborough Fine Art earlier this year, and her painting of Michael Jackson will be included in the National Portrait Gallery’s On the Wall exhibition next year.
Hambling’s work is held in many public collections, including Tate, British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. ‘Good Time George’ is the first of the artist’s paintings to be added to the Walker Art Gallery’s permanent collection.
About the painting
Maggi Hambling. Photograph by Douglas Atfield
Maggi Hambling and George Melly were close friends.
Maggi Hambling said: “George often makes a grand appearance in my dreams. I still hear him laugh, tell jokes and sing. From wherever he may be…”
Maggi painted and drew George from life, and posthumously. He said she would go down in art history as "Maggi (Coffin) Hambling", referring to her practice of drawing and painting people on their deathbeds and afterwards.
Hambling and Melly met while lying on the path at a garden party and at once became friends. They then worked together in the early 1980s when he chaired the cult Channel 4 arts quiz, ‘Gallery’, in which Hambling was one of the two team captains. In 1998, Hambling was commissioned by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery to paint Melly’s portrait.
This is an important return to the Walker Art Gallery for the 'Good Time George' portrait, which was first displayed at the gallery in 2009 in an exhibition of more than 20 paintings and drawings titled George Always: Portraits of George Melly by Maggi Hambling.
Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said: "We are incredibly grateful to Maggi for giving the painting to the Walker Art Gallery and to the City: Liverpool feels like its natural home. This gift marks a long relationship between artist, Gallery, George and Liverpool, and her work will be a significant addition to the Walker’s important collection of contemporary painting. I’m sure it will be hugely popular with our visitors.”
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