Osborn joined the army at the age of seventeen, in 1759, as an ensign in the 24th Foot but was swiftly promoted to Captain in the 16th Light Dragoons that same year. During the American Revolutionary War he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel in the Scots Guards (3rd Foot Guards) and commanded the Grenadier Company of the Guards Brigade, serving with distinction in the Philadelphia Campaign, particularly at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, and the Siege of Fort Mifflin. Returning to England in 1777 he was promoted to Major-General and later General in the Army and served as Colonel of the 40th Regiment of Foot from 1786 until his death. He married twice; firstly Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of John Bannister, with whom he had a son, John, who succeeded him as 5th Baronet; and secondly Lady Heneage Finch, daughter of the 8th Earl of Winchilsea.
As Kidson has noted, Romney clearly took care with this commission and regarded it as an important one, no doubt keenly aware of his sitter’s influential political connections. Despite this the artist has made no attempt to flatter his subject, rather his treatment of Sir George – sensitive, etiolated and detached, painted with thin, liquid strokes of paint – demonstrates a level of insight and sensitivity that is rare in such portraits.
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