Walter Frederick Osborne, Irish, 1859-1903
Title: Dublin Streets: a Vendor of Books
Date: 1889
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
80 x 90 cm
Credit Line: Bequeathed, John Hamilton-Hunter, in memory of his father, Robert Hamilton-Hunter, 2004
Object Number: NGI.4736
DescriptionAston Quay in Dublin had been a favourite location for street hawkers and stall holders for generations. In Osborne’s picture, a mother with a baby appears to have dispatched an older child to charm gentlemen perusing books at the stall into buying daffodils. The little flower-girl’s bare feet are arguably the only explicit reference to the hardships endured by Dublin’s poor. The barge and skiff just visible to the right, meanwhile, serve as evidence of the Liffey’s status as a working river. As well as a gentle depiction of street
life in the capital, Osborne’s painting is an invaluable physical record of the city. It features the remarkable view eastwards across the Liffey towards Gandon’s Custom House that would soon be compromised by the building of the Loopline Bridge. It must also be one of the earliest paintings of the main bridge across the Liffey, which, having been widened and flattened in 1880, had been renamed O’Connell Bridge in 1882.
Osborne painted Dublin Streets: a Vendor of Books on one of several visits home to Dublin from England, where he had been based since 1884. He was an inveterate draughtsman, who filled sketchbooks with drawings of scenes from Dublin’s streets and alleys. Among his subjects were fish sellers, flower girls and a variety of other city characters at market stalls. He did not rely exclusively on sketches, however, but also made extensive use of photographs, a distinctly modern and popular resource.

March 2016

Exhibition HistoryWalker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1889

Royal Academy, London, 1889

Taking Stock: Acquisitions 2000-2010, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 13 March 2010-25 July 2010
Label TextAston Quay had been a favourite location for street hawkers and stall holders for generations. In Osborne’s picture, a mother with a baby appears to have dispatched an older child to charm gentlemen, perusing books at the stall, into buying daffodils. The little flower-girl’s bare feet are an explicit reference to the hardships endured by Dublin’s poor, while a barge and skiff serve as evidence of the Liffey’s status as a working river. The painting features the remarkable view eastwards across the river towards James Gandon’s Custom House, which would soon be compromised by the building of the Loopline Bridge.