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Lot 65: Walter Frederick Osborne, R.H.A. (1859-1903)
THE IRISH SALE
May 17, 2002
London, United Kingdom
Description: Milking Time signed 'WALTER OSBORNE' (lower left) oil on canvas 71/2 x 103/4 in. (19 x 27.3 cm.) PROVENANCE The Gwynn family, Dublin. NOTES In 1892 Walter Osborne began making preparations for a major canvas of Irish rural life. In her monograph on Osborne, published in 1974, Jeanne Sheehy refers to this as 'one of the most important series in the latter part of his career'. She reveals the careful preparations which the artist made in working towards the final canvas, Milking Time, making a number of drawings and small oil studies of the subject, of cows in a pasture at the edge of a wood, a girl milking, a wooden cart, and low farm cottages in the background (for example, J. Sheehy, Walter Osborne, Ballycotton, 1974, nos. 312, 313 and 317). Although painted on canvas rather than on board, the present picture is of similar small scale so can be added to the list. It represents the left-hand part of the scene, with the girl at work and three cows standing patiently in the shadow of a line of trees. Osborne works rapidly to render the immediacy of the subject before his eyes. Characteristic of his plein air paintings of the 1890s are his free, swirling brushstrokes, and the impressionistic sensitivity to light and shadow. Here, as in the finished canvas, much of the scene is in shadow, but little flecks of sunshine fall upon the silver birches, and the side of one of the cows. In its setting beside a line of trees and its rapid brushwork there are echoes of Sargent's well known impressionistic canvas, Claude Monet Painting at the Edge of a Wood, circa 1887 (Tate Britain). As Sheehy asserts, 'Finally, in the finished composition all the details in the sketches are drawn together into a convincing whole' ( ibid. ). The final canvas, Milking Time is a richly-coloured impressionistic painting of an Irish pastoral scene, and a superb study of sunlight and shadow. Coincidentally, along with one of the pencil studies of the girl milking, it appeared recently at auction (James Adam, Dublin, 5 December 2001, lot 76). Another fine canvas entitled, Milking Time, painted in 1893, showing a similar subject in more open countryside is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland. Julian Campbell The present work was acquired from Osborne by the Gwynn family. Osborne The Gwynns were close friends with the artist, part of the same Dublin circle; see Osborne's sensitive 1885 portrait of Stephen Gwynn (National Gallery of Ireland) and his charming 1896 watercolour of Stephen's son, and the artist's godson, Master Aubrey Gwynn (private collection). SALESROOM NOTICE This work is offered with a copy of Stephen Gwynn's Garden Wisdom, Or From One Generation to Another, Dublin and London, 1921, in which the author recalls Osborne and his work with affection and respect (pp. 29-30).