Walter Frederick Osborne RHA (1859 - 1903) Sheep in a Field ...

by Adam's Auctioneers


€60,000 - €80,000


Walter Frederick Osborne RHA (1859 - 1903) Sheep in a Field Oil on canvas, 36 x 47cm (14¼ x 18½) Signed lower left Provenance: Sarah Purser; Sean Purser thence by descent to the present owners. Literature: Jeanne Sheehy, Walter Osborne, Ballycotton, 1974, cat. no. 189, p.122-123 In Osborne’s painting a flock of black-faced sheep are shown grazing in a field. In the foreground is a trough and wicker fence, while behind is a flat landscape and hazy blue sky. The artistspent much of the late 1880s in England painting village subjects, landscapes and farming scenes. He was enamoured with the subject of sheepand painted many pictures of flocks, sometimes with the shepherd present. In 1885 he painted small panels of sheep in a pen on sunny days, probably in Hampshire. One delightful picture The Sheepfold, for example, shows a small flock in a paddock, one black-faced sheep in the foreground looking at us with curiousity. (1) One of Osborne’s best known pastoral scenes Counting the Flock, (sold in these rooms 30 May 2018), shows a shepherd with dog and sheep in a flat landscape.(2) Osborne painted further sheep subjects in Berkshire c. 1887-1888. The present picture Sheep in a Field, c.1888, shows a small flock of black-faced animals grazing or resting in a pasture, one of them close to the viewer. Like his father, animal painter William Osborne, Walter has a profound empathy for his animal subjects. He captures well the woolly coats and calm demeanour of the sheep. Two rooks or carrion crows are shown pecking at the earth. In the right foreground are a water trough and latticed wattle fence, the latter painted with such skillful realism that we almost feel we can touch it. In the distance is a landscape with small woods, and a flat horizon with hazy blue sky with clouds. The burnished tones that the artist employs: browns, bottle greens and beiges, give the painting a warm rural feeling. It is a surprise then to see an embankment with railway line and telegraph poles cutting horizontally across the landscape behind the sheep in the middle distance. This seems like an intrusion upon the quiet, pastoral scene, (and adds an understated modern dimension to the picture). Yet Osborne himself loved to travel by train, and was engaged with contemporary life, as well as being a lover of nature and tradition. Sheep in a Field has never appeared on the market previously, having remained in the same family collection for over a hundred years. It was acquired by Sarah Purser, a relative and fellow painter of Osborne’s, and was displayed in her home, Mespil House, in Dublin. Subsequently it passed down through the family by descent. Julian Campbell, April 2024 J.Sheehy, Walter Osborne, NGI, 1983,, illustrated. Counting the Flock, in Important Irish Art, Adam’s, 30 May 2018, lot 32

Auction Date:
29th May 24 at 6pm BST

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Sale Dates:
29th May 2024 6pm BST (Lots 1.00 to 124.00)