Maggi Hambling is one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. She is best known for her wild seascapes, intricate portraits, and public sculptures dedicated to Oscar Wilde and Benjamin Britten. Here, Maggi tells us why she is a Patron of Paintings in Hospitals and what ‘arts in health’ means to her…

Art can be a fundamental part of the healing process. People tend to be at their most vulnerable in hospital, and encountering a good painting, piece of sculpture or print can relieve stress.

There is scientific evidence that looking at art eases one’s perception of physical pain too. Just as there is to suggest that art, real art, rather than reproductions or posters can raise morale, improve mood and lift the spirits. Not just of patients, but of the people who work in hospitals too.

Art is a positive element of life. However ill, anxious or in a state of grief you are, if your attention is caught by a painting, and you engage with it, even if you can’t fathom its depth, or you really dislike it, for those moments at least your mind is on something other than the reason you’re in hospital. Art shows you there’s another world out there.

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, 2003.

'The Scallop' by Maggi Hambling, 2003. Situated on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. The sculpture was created to commemorate Benjamin Britten and displays the quote ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’.

I first got involved with Paintings in Hospitals when I donated a painting to its collection. It now has around 4,000 artworks, which form the basis of the exhibitions it organises in hospitals, hospices, care homes and doctors’ surgeries across the UK. In 2015, I became a Patron because I really believe it champions a crucial cause.

Of course, faith in the restorative power of art is nothing new. Renaissance infirmaries were full of frescos. And Florence Nightingale was wise to the fact that art had a role to play in medicine. She wrote that ‘beautiful objects have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in objects presented to patients are an actual means of recovery.’

I think it can too. We all need food for the stomach. But art is the food of the human spirit.

In our 60th year, can you help us raise £60,000 to help transform care sites, inspire hope and boost wellbeing for patients and carers?

60 years of Paintings in Hospitals

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This is an excerpt from a piece originally written for Paintings in Hospitals at the British Art Fair, September 2018.