The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Walter Frederick Osborne, 1859-1903

Nationality: Irish
Date of Birth: 1859.06.17
Place of Birth: Dublin
Date of Death: 1903.04.24
Place of Death: Dublin


Walter Frederick Osborne, a landscape and portrait painter and sculptor, was the son of the animal and portrait painter William Osborne.


Osborne studied at the Royal Hibernian Academy Schools in Dublin and at the Antwerp Academy under Charles Verlat. In the 1880s he worked primarily in England but in 1887 returned to Dublin where he depicted the poverty of the city in Near St Patrick's Close (1887; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin). He returned to the theme in the 1890s with his In a Dublin Park - Light and Shade (1895; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin). These low-life scenes were comparable to the Vauxhall paintings of Fred Brown and John Robertson Reid. His Life in the Streets: Hard Times was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest in 1892. His work was admired by Walter Armstrong, a writer on art, who was appointed director of the National Gallery of Ireland in 1892, and who sat to Osborne for his portrait in 1896.

In 1887 Osborne joined the New English Art Club, a group sympathetic to his artistic vision, with whom JW exhibited at their inaugural exhibition in 1888. In 1889 he was among those invited to a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate JW on becoming an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner which was to be held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May 1889 (#00631). He was invited to exhibit with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, a society that formed with JW as its President in 1898, and in 1901 showed an oil A Portrait (cat. no. 168).

Osborne was elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1883, becoming a full member in 1886. In 1891 he was elected to the membership of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.


Catalogue of the Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture at the Third Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1901; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; McConkey, Kenneth, Memory and Desire: Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Aldershot, 2002.