The Music Lesson oil on canvas 76 X 53.5 CM. (30 X 21 IN.)
PROVENANCE: with The Dawson Gallery, Dublin Private Collection Acquired by the present owner circa 1980 Private Collection, U.K.
EXHIBITED: Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, Walter Osborne Memorial Exhibition, 1903, no.37
LITERATURE: Jeanne Sheehy, Walter Frederick Osborne, Cork, 1974, no.560
Jeanne Sheehy (Walter Osborne, 1974, p.149) suggests that the girl in the pinafore is the artist's niece Violet Stockley, who also appears in The Goldfish Bowl (Crawford Art Gallery, Cork). The identity of the woman is not known and she could be a piano teacher or a friend. However, her gentle, rounded features and centre-parted hair are not dissimilar to those of Osborne's mother, Anne Jane Osborne.
The subject of girls and women at the piano, and indeed the theme of music, are ones that appear in several of Osborne's paintings. These include Near St. Patrick's Close, 1887 (National Gallery of Ireland), in which a boy is shown playing a whistle in the street, and Piping Times, mid 1890s, where a boy is playing a whistle to a girl in a garden landscape. The piano is featured in several of Osborne's formal portraits, for instance Mrs Andrew Jameson and her daughter Violet, c.1895-96, where the mother is seated at the piano, and her daughter stands, playing the violin; and Mrs. Fitton Falkiner c.1902 (N.G.I.), (and a sketch in Limerick City Art Gallery), which show the subject seated at the piano, but turning to face the viewer. It is not known if Osborne was aware of other such subjects, such as At the Piano by Whistler (Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio), or Two Girls at the Piano, 1892 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
Osborne painted many of his portraits in his studio, and piano and props appear in some of his formal pictures. But for his more informal pictures, such as The Music Lesson, the more intimate surroundings, with piano, pottery objects and pictures on the wall, suggest that this may be the family home. In such later genre subjects Osborne creates a mood of intimacy and warmth in the interaction between women or girl sitters, as for example in The Goldfish Bowl, The Lustre Jug (N.G.I.) and the watercolour The House Builders (N.G.I.). As in The Goldfish Bowl, Osborne evokes the light falling on figures against the warm, burnished tonality of the background. But the technique in the present picture is unusually broad and expressive, especially in the costume of the girl, painted in bold, energetic strokes, indicating that Osborne was working rapidly.
We are grateful to Julian Campbell for compiling this catalogue entry.