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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bonhams to auction painting by Irish artist Walter Osborne

Feeding the chickens to be on show in Bonhams new Dublin office on Friday 24th February

Walter Frederick Osborne R.H.A, R.O.I (1859-1903) was the most important Irish artist of his generation, and an outstanding example of his work is to be offered for auction as part of the 19th Century Paintings sale on Wednesday 11th July 2012, at Bonhams 101 New Bond Street, London.

Feeding the chickens (1884-85) is estimated to fetch £500,000-700,000. Prior to sale, the picture will be shown alongside other forthcoming auction highlights at Bonhams new Dublin premises (31 Molesworth Street) on Friday 24th February from 10am – 4pm.

The painting has been consigned from a private collection in Ireland and has not been seen on the open market since it was acquired by a relative of the vendor in May 1913.

Charles O’Brien, Head of Bonhams 19th Century Paintings Department, comments, “Osborne was at the height of his career when he created this work. It is a remarkable example of the dramatic change that Irish painting underwent towards the end of the 19th Century, with artists increasingly being influenced by movements in continental Europe.”

Osborne studied at the Antwerp Academy in 1881 and 1882, and worked in Brittany the following year before returning to Ireland to pursue a career as an artist. It was in France that he developed his naturalistic style of Impressionist landscape painting for which he was to make such a name for himself. He continued to travel regularly and he exhibited widely in both Dublin and London. He was elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy and New English Art Club in London from 1887. Tragically he died prematurely from pneumonia at the age of 43, when many consider him to have been on the brink of maturity as an artist.

From the mid 1880s to 1890 Osborne regularly visited many small towns, villages and harbours in England. He observed numerous rural scenes and frequently painted the locals at work tending livestock, feeding chickens, ploughing the fields and other country work, perhaps influenced by his knowledge of 19th century European Realist painting. Feeding the chickens is mentioned in a letter that Osborne wrote to his father while he was working in the small village of North Littleton, near Stratford on Avon in Warwickshire. The letter is accompanied by a pencil sketch of the composition, and the artist writes that he is “pretty far advanced on a kit-cat of a girl feeding fowl in a sort of farmyard….” The portrayal of children in a rural setting would have been a familiar theme to the young artist and it is widely echoed in works by many of his contemporaries such as Alexander Stanhope Forbes and Nathaniel Hill.

“Osborne fuses traditional and modernist influences in this work, and the result is arguably one of the outstanding examples of plein-air painting from this exciting period. Its atmospheric palette, dappled sunlight and sumptuous textures and tones combine to make it a highly desirable work by a very well respected and admired artist, so we expect there to be considerable interest,” says Charles O’Brien.

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