Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Osborne, Walter Frederick

OSBORNE, WALTER FREDERICK (1859–1903), painter, was the son of William Osborne, R.H.A., a popular painter of animals, by Anne Woods, his wife. He was born in 1859 at 5 Castle wood Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin, which was his home for the whole of his life. His general education was acquired at Rathmines school, under the Rev. C. W. Benson. His first training in art was obtained in the schools of the Royal Hibernian Academy, where he won the Albert prize in 1880 with 'A Glade in the Phoenix Park.' In 1881, and again in 1882, he won the Taylor scholarship of 50l. per annum, given by the Royal Dublin Society, the chief reward open only to art students of Irish birth. With the help of this scholarship he proceeded to Antwerp, where he studied for two years under Verlat. On his return home he set himself to paint, in water-colour, pastel, and oil, the life of the English and Irish fields and streets. He spent his summers in the rural parts of England, in Sussex, Berkshire, Warwickshire, Norfolk, and other districts where subjects unspoiled by commerce, and farmhouses ready to accept a 'paying guest,' were to be found. These scenes he painted with sincerity, delicacy, and truth, and his pictures soon became widely popular, especially among artists. He painted, too, in Brittany, in the neighbourhood of Quimper, while his pictures of street life in Dublin helped to increase his reputation. He was a regular contributor to the exhibitions of the Royal Hibernian Academy and of the Royal Academy (1886-1903), his contributions to the latter being chiefly portraits. In 1895 he and the writer of this article made a tour in Spain, where he found subjects for several excellent drawings in water-colour and sketches in oil. A year later he travelled in Holland with the same companion and painted canal scenes in Amsterdam. During the last ten years of his life he was much sought after as a portrait painter, a form of art for which he showed a remarkable gift. Among his sitters were Lord Houghton, now marquess of Crewe, K.G., Lord Ashbourne, Lord Powerscourt, K.P., Sir Thomas Moflfett, Serjeant Jellett, the duke of Abercom, K.G., Sir Frederick Falkiner, Sir Walter Armstrong, and many ladies. The portrait of the duke of Abercom, a full length in a duke's parliamentary robes, was left unfinished at the painter's death. It is in the Masonic Hall, Dublin. In 1900 Osborne was offered knighthood in recognition of his distinction as a painter. He was elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1883, and a full member in 1886. He was delightful in every relation of life and enjoyed great popularity with all his friends. To his powers as an artist he added those which go with a vigorous, athletic body, and had fate made him a professional cricketer, he would probably have acquired fame as a bowler. He died at 5 Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin, on 24 April 1903, of double pneumonia, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. He was unmarried, and left considerable savings behind him.

The National Gallery of Ireland owns four of his subject pictures in oil: 'The Lustre Jug,' a cottage interior with children; 'A Galway Cottage'; 'In County Dublin'; and 'A Cottage Garden'; also two water-colour drawings, 'The Dolls' School' and 'The House-builders'; as well as many pencil drawings. ’Life in the Streets: Hard Times' (R.A. 1902) was bought by the Chantrey bequest. His own portrait by himself hangs in the collection of Irish national portraits, with his portraits in chalk and pencil of Miss Margaret Stokes and Thomas Henry Burke [q. v.], the under-secretary to the lord-lieutenant.

[Personal knowledge.]

W. A.