Lavery and Osborne: observing life

Lavery and Osborne: observing life
Hunt Museum, The Custom House, Rutland St, Limerick

Exhibition continues to September 30, 2019

The catalogue (€25) is available from the museum.

The summer exhibition at Limerick’s Hunt Museum is just the thing for a family outing, a show which will introduce children and perhaps others to the delights of art.

On display are paintings from two of Ireland’s most important and interesting artists of the turn of the 19th Century: with images of Irish scenes, animals, children, elegant society ladies and exotic locations, this is a show with something for every taste.

Both will be familiar to many, but this exhibition is special in that includes many items from private collections or little known galleries which will be difficult to see again in one place. Even for the aficionados of both artists there is nothing tired here, little sense of déjà vu.

The show is arranged so that visitors can compare and contrast the two artists allowing new views on both to emerge. Osborne, who lived in Rathmines, has always seemed to me a very domesticated artist, and that sense is reinforced here, though many of the pictures also show scenes he painted in England and Brittany.

Osborne …leaves a sense of a creative talent only partly expressed”

Lavery, on the other hand, stands in one’s mind as a society artist with an unusual eye for the exotic. The entrance to the show, however, is dominated by a large canvas called The Mother from about 1909, which has an immediate sense of intimacy and love which is quite moving.

An Osborne sketch of Connemara is contrast with a Lavery showing the cliffs at Tangier. But if Osborne evinces a feeling of privacy observed, Lavery reflects high society, the worlds of Scott Fitzgerald and Somerset Maugham on the Riviera, or in a very striking image Winter in Florida, an emerging resort for the international rich. Yet his paintings of North Africa blind one with the brilliant light of quite another world.

But in contrast both artists created images of the dark green damp, always clouded corners of their native land, filling this exhibition with fresh scenes and lovely situations.

Lavery lived to fulfil his ambitions in many directions (his record of the revolutionary decade for instance), but Osborne who died in 1903 at the age of 43, leaves a sense of a creative talent only partly expressed. The exhibition is well worth making a special effort to go out of one’s way to visit.

Visit the online exhibition at: www.huntmuseum.com/lavery-osborne-exhibition. Tel: (061) 312 833.

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