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George always at the Walker

27 February 2009 by Sam

expressive portrait painting of a man in colourful clothes

‘George Always I’ © Maggi Hambling (2007/2008), courtesy of The Ivy

The late George Melly had a long association with Liverpool’s art galleries. This dates back to before the war when as a child he would visit his cousin Emma, who would tell him all about the paintings she owned and read him Beatrix Potter in her library. Cousin Emma just happened to be a certain Emma Holt and her library and painting collection were, and still are, part of Sudley House.

Years later Melly was a familiar figure at the Walker Art Gallery, whether on official duty as a judge of the John Moores 20 exhibition or opening speaker at the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition, or just as a visitor, unmistakable in his loud suits.

It’s entirely appropriate then that an exhibition of portraits of ‘Good time George’ by the distinguished contemporary artist Maggi Hambling, is being shown together for the first time at the Walker. George always, which opens today, is a riot of colour and personality. Melly was a great friend of Hambling’s and sat for her many times. After Melly’s death in July 2007 she continued to paint a series of portraits from memory and imagination. The most recently completed triptych from this series has not been on public display before.

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