Lot 11
  • 11


60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Walter Frederick Osborne, R.H.A
  • Seated Boy and Sea
  • signed, l.l.: WALTER OSBORNE
  • oil on board
  • 14 by 22cm., 5½ by 8¾in.


Mrs Sophia Mallin, step-sister of Violet Stockley (the artist's niece);
Gorry Gallery, Dublin, 1991


Dublin, Gorry Gallery, An Exhibition of 18th, 19th and 20th Century Irish Paintings, 27 September – 10 October 1991, no.18;
Boston, Boston College Museum of Art, America’s Eye: Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 26 January - 19 May 1996, no.34, illustrated p.120, with tour to Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, 19 June - 25 August 1996 and New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 25 September 1997 - 4 January 1998;
Washington, John F. Kennedy Center, Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 13 - 28 May 2000, illustrated p.83;
Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, A Century of Irish Painting: Selections from the Brian P. Burns Collection, 3 March - 29 April 2007, illustrated p.91


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd, London UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The artist's board has a very slightly uneven profile but appears to be entirely secure and stable. The corners of the board are slightly disturbed, which is very typical of such artist's supports. Paint surface The paint surface has a reasonably even varnish layer. Small spot of paint loss to boy's left hand. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows retouchings around the outer edges and particularly in the upper left and upper right corners. The retouchings around the framing edges appear to cover frame rubbing from the framing sight edge. There is a larger retouching in the dark pigments of the post on the left of the composition and small retouchings beneath the signature in the lower left of the composition. There are other small flecks of retouching and it should be stressed that all the retouchings are of minimal size. Some of the retouchings are also slightly matt and surface cleaning and revarnishing would therefore be beneficial to ensure an even surface coating and cleaning could also result in a worthwhile improvement in the overall appearance. Summary The painting therefore appears to be in good and stable condition and should respond well to cleaning and revarnishing. Held in a Dutch style ebony rippled frame.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Walter Osborne shows a boy leaning against a bench or board walk, ‘au contre jour’, silhouetted against the sea and dazzling light. This small painting was most likely painted at Walberswick on the Suffolk coast, where there was an artists’ colony, and where Osborne was working in 1884. Osborne often employed the local boys who hung around the harbour, helped the fishermen, or told stories, as models in his English paintings. Christina Kennedy makes a comparison with another small panel Boy on Shore (Dublin City Art Gallery, the Hugh Lane)1, which shows a child lying on the beach, wearing a tam o’ shanter; and a group of lads in straw hats are featured in A Tale of the Sea, 1884.2 In the present picture, the figure is close to the viewer, placed to the right. Wearing a large tam o'shanter and white blouse, he half looks out of the picture, as if he is observing something, or lost in reflection. His figure is in shadow, but strips of sunlight touch the top of his beret, the edges of his shirt, and his right hand. The tone of the picture is mainly subdued, but Osborne makes subtle use of browns, blues, violets, whites and ochres. In contrast, the dazzling white of the sea, suggesting a low sun above, is dramatic. This white is repeated in the strip of light on the front of the boy’s shirt, and in the wave breaking on the shore. The off-white of the clouds floating in the pale bluish-pink sky is more muted.

Osborne makes striking use of horizontal lines: in the horizon on the sea, the top and bottom of the boardwalk, and in the beach below. There is a delightful visual pun in the way that the tuft on the boy’s tam-o-shanter is reprised by the sail on the horizon.

Osborne paints in a bold manner, the light and shadow on the beach expressed by long strokes, while the boy’s hat and shirt are conveyed in a ‘square-brush’ style.

Julian Campbell

1C. Kennedy, ‘Seated Boy and Sea. Walter Frederick Osborne’, in America’s Eye, 1996, p.120.

2 Sotheby’s, London, 7 May 2008, lot 116