Heron in the Shallows 2013, by internationally renowned artist, Maggi Hambling, CBE, is currently on show in the Colman Project Space. This magnificent painting has recently been donated to the Norwich Castle collections by Sir Timothy Colman, whose family have been long-standing benefactors to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. The work has been given in memory of his sister Penny Allen, née Colman. Penny, who died in 2018, was a close friend of the artist who admired and collected her work for many years.
The painting, completed in 2013, has been seen at Norwich Castle before, when it was one of the most popular exhibits loaned to The Wonder of Birds exhibition in summer 2014. Hambling is well-known for her dynamic portrayals of herons and cormorants, capturing their speed and grace. In this work she is also telling a timely environmental story: the heron, seeking fish, is surrounded only by pollution.
Herons are Maggi Hambling’s favourite birds, which she has portrayed many times in her art. She perfectly captures the grace, sense of speed and streamlined ease of movement of this elegant Grey Heron with rich textures and colours and flickering brushwork. Hambling observes herons in her beloved Suffolk water-meadows, but this particular bird is shown in the shallows of the Thames. Intended by the artist to be a comment on the effect of polluted habitats on wildlife, the bird has picked up a mouthful of sewage and is searching in vain for fish. Birds are seen by those who love them as intrinsic, even defining, parts of a landscape. When that landscape is disturbed or despoiled, the effects on local birdlife can be disastrous.
Penny Colman was born in Norfolk in 1937 and studied art and design in Norwich and London. She worked as a theatre designer and was later a successful artist, exhibiting alongside her contemporaries Keith Vaughan, Prunella Clough and Ben Nicholson. With her mother, Lettice Colman, she created the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society in Norwich and was later instrumental in setting up the Friends of the Tate Gallery which was started by her uncle, Sir Robert Adeane, in 1958.
“Hambling’s exquisite painting is an incredible addition to Norwich Castle’s contemporary art collection. We are very grateful to the Colman family for this generous donation, one that visitors will enjoy for many years to come.” Dr Rosy Gray, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art