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ELIZABETH OSBORNE

Animal Paintings and Watercolors

WoodmereArtMuseum


ANIMAL PAINTINGS AND WATERCOLORS

ELI Z AB ET H OS BO R N E

CONTENTS Foreword by William R. Valerio 2 A Conversation with Elizabeth Osborne 4 Works in the Exhibition 12

January 13, 2018–June 24, 2018

WoodmereArtMuseum


FOREWORD As both an artist whose work is sought after by

This exhibition evolved out a desire to highlight a

collectors and an anchor among the teaching

part of Osborne’s practice that would both surprise

staff of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine

and delight the public—hence, our narrow focus

Arts, Elizabeth Osborne has been a central voice

on the subject of domestic animals. As revealed

in Philadelphia’s art community for many years.

in the conversation in these pages, animals are

Whether she chooses watercolor on paper or oil on

actors in her tableaus of everyday life—they are

canvas as her medium, Osborne seamlessly marries

living, breathing creatures with whom we share our

color, light, and form through gesture. It is surely not

homes. They are metaphors for unconditional love

the case, but I imagine a process of effortless flow,

within the intimate realms we build for ourselves.

as if she turns on a tap and the work pours out of

The exhibition is about the habitation of personal

her brush. When we show her work at Woodmere, it

spaces and the dogs and cats that help us on our

is always a visitor favorite.

journeys. Woodmere is especially grateful to the artist for her participation in this exhibition and in so many projects over the years. We extend our appreciation to Dr. Janice Gordon for lending Doggie Daycare, and we thank the Locks Gallery, especially Sueyun Locks and Doug Schaller, for generously facilitating the loan of works and for supporting the endeavor. And I am, as ever, grateful to Woodmere’s staff, particularly Assistant Curator Rachel McCay, who conceived of and organized the exhibition, and Deputy Director for Collections Rick Ortwein, who shaped the exhibition design. Thank you all. WILLIAM R. VALERIO, PHD

The Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO

Cat, 2014, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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Maine Portrait, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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A CONVERSATION WITH THE ARTIST

On Friday, December 22, 2017 artist Elizabeth Osborne spoke with Rachel McCay, Woodmere’s Assistant Curator, to discuss her work. RACHEL MACCAY: Liz, we’re very excited to

open your exhibition Elizabeth Osborne: Animal Paintings and Watercolors. This is an intimate show of about twenty works, but there were many more watercolors and sketches of animals in your studio. The subject of animals is not one that most people associate with you, but in preparing this show I learned that you’ve been painting and drawing them for years. Have you always been drawn to animals? Have animals always been a part of your life? ELIZABETH OSBORNE: Yes, well, I’ve had dogs

most of my life—Westies [West Highland terriers],

Sumi, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

actually. When I was a little girl I didn’t have pets, but when I grew up I fell in love with that breed. They’re great company and great fun to train and have them walk with you. They get you out of your house, because I live and work in the same place, so

MCCAY: One of the works in the show is a

watercolor of Ramsey. Is this the current Ramsey or your first Ramsey?

it’s nice to take long walks. They’re just wonderful

OSBORNE: No, that’s this Ramsey. The little Westies

companions. I once had two but that was a little too

are funny; sometimes they’ll lie very flat, like a little

much, so now I only have one. Ramsey, my current

rug almost, legs sticking out under something. It’s

dog, is two and a half, and he’s got a lot of energy,

just a very comical position. I did this one from a

of course. He’s actually my second Ramsey; I had

photograph because he doesn’t stay there for very

another Ramsey before him.

long. It was so amusing to me.

MCCAY: Oh, really?

MCCAY: The show also features your daughter

OSBORNE: I’m stuck with that name somehow.

Audrey and her cat Sumi.

He’s also a good watchdog; he’ll bark if somebody’s

OSBORNE: Yes, he’s now deceased, but Audrey

coming to the door, which I kind of like. He’s not

was extremely devoted to that cat for fifteen or

mean or anything, but he’s aware. When I’m in the

sixteen years. They were just bonded. I’d say of all

studio, he’ll just lie there quietly. That’s one of his

of Audrey’s cats, they were very attached to each

very nice attributes. He doesn’t interfere with my

other in a beautiful way. It was a beautiful cat, a

work at all, but he follows me wherever I am.

great cat. I don’t think Audrey even knows I have

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Ramsey, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

this watercolor of Sumi. She’ll probably say, “I want

Lately I haven’t worked from a model. In fact, that’s

that, I want that.”

something I’m planning to do this year, to get back

MCCAY: Sumi is also the cat lying on your

daughter’s stomach in Maine Portrait. In general, this body of work has a sketch-like quality and the works on paper are relatively small scale. Are these things you’re doing in between your larger-scale paintings? OSBORNE: Most of them are from life and I’ll

complete them when I’m just sitting there looking at the animal. The sleeping dog is unique because that was a series. I had a model come to the studio and she unexpectedly brought her dog with her. It was a wonderful dog; it just sort of stayed still long enough for you to work from it.

to working from a model again. I did that for a long time. Having taught at PAFA, I got to know models and my desire to work with them came from that tradition of working from life. I enjoy that. I got away from it when I went into a period of more abstract work. Now I’m interested in seeing what I do with it, maybe combining it with abstractions. When you’re working from life, for me, you get a little more spontaneity. You make more mistakes, which is more interesting than when you’re sitting looking at a photograph. When you work from photographs it can get a little frozen if you’re not careful. It’s a subtle thing, but there’s a difference.

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Sleeping Dog III, 1990, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

I can tell in a minute who’s using a photograph. I’m

MCCAY: How does this work inform the landscapes,

not against that at all. Sidney Goodman, whom I

abstractions, and assemblages that most people

admired very much, was a wonderful draftsman,

think of when they think of your work?

and he often worked from photographs. A lot of artists do, and the really good ones can pull it off. Others—I saw so much of it at PAFA when I was teaching—sit and look at a computer screen and work from that; it’s not easy to do, to give it real life and energy. I can understand that—they can’t drag their dogs or cats into the studios.

OSBORNE: Well, certainly Maine Portrait and

Doggie Daycare connect to my oeuvre. I’ve often used the window—that rectangular shape, the warmer light coming through—in other paintings with books and with figures. It’s part of the larger vocabulary of what interests me, visually. Actually a lot of my subjects come from where I live. I have large windows in my home and studio. When your

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subject is animals or pets, you have to be careful that it doesn’t get sentimental and kind of cute. I try to avoid that if I can. MCCAY: You certainly avoided creating overly

sentimental images. You’ve captured the essence of these animals. OSBORNE: You mentioned earlier that this isn’t the

subject that most people associate with me as an artist—it’s an interesting observation. When I was a student at PAFA in the 1950s, they had a prize for Sleeping Dog II, 1990, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

animal drawing—it was called the Packard Prize— and I won it. I would go to the zoo and draw animals when I was a student. So I’ve actually been drawing animals for a long time! MCCAY: That’s a great story. This work has an

immediacy to it. They don’t appear to be labored over. To me they seem to indicate your larger need to make images. I imagine you see these animals either repeatedly or, like Ramsey, they strike a pose that attracts you. OSBORNE: I think artists do that. They look around

all the time and then maybe some everyday thing will just strike them and they’ll say, “Okay, I’m going Untitled (Sleeping Dog 24), 1989, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

to record this. I like that.” Sometimes you don’t see things or you don’t see any reason to paint it or draw it, but other times it will just strike you. Like that doggie daycare. I walked by it a million times and then finally one day I said, “Wow, that’s going to be a painting.” So, that’s just how it is. MCCAY: Let’s talk about some of the specific works

in the exhibition, starting with Doggie Daycare. OSBORNE: For that painting, I used photos.

It’s a wonderful place at the corner of 20th and Brandywine. People just stand there and watch these dogs in the window, and they’re beautiful, Sleeping Dogs (Koro and Ramsey), 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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Doggie Daycare, 2016–17, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of Dr. Janice Gordon)

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some of them. People go to work and they drop these dogs off and pay $32 a day to take their dog there. The girls and people that work there are really nice. I’d walk by all the time when I was walking my dog and finally I thought, it’s an interesting window, and the colors of the bright yellow wall and the blue tile, and then this row of dogs. Of course, they changed all the time in the window—there were always different dogs—so I had to work from a photograph. I used this image as an announcement for my recent show at Locks Gallery and the doggie daycare liked it so much they put up the card in their window. MCCAY: That’s great. I’m one of those people who

can’t walk by those places without stopping to look at all the dogs. Midnight is another wonderful painting. OSBORNE: It’s a painting of another one of my

daughter’s beloved beasts. He was with her for many years, and he was a rescue, a beautiful,

Jasper on Steps, 2015, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

wonderful dog. He was a big dog and she would bring him over when she lived in Philadelphia. He’d sit there in my studio, on the floor. I remember I threw down some rug or something with stripes on

OSBORNE: I was up in Maine where Audrey has this

it, on his bed, and I painted him a few times. He was

sofa in front of the window. She lies on there and

an older dog, and so he was quieter, he would stay

the cat is just attached to her all the time. He’s a

still. He was a great dog.

pretty strong little fellow, I mean, he went out in the woods a lot, too. But one day, at age fifteen—which

There’s also Jasper on Steps. He was another dog I had before the Westie; he was a rescue, a little black

is a pretty good life—sadly, he just faded away. MCCAY: That’s sad. I’m sorry to hear that.

terrier, and he would sit at the top of the steps. Whenever I’d come home from wherever I was, even if I was in the studio, I’d look up and he would sit

OSBORNE: Yes, it was sad. There’s also one of two

sleeping dogs.

there, watching me come up. It was sort of a dark doorway behind him and I like that rug on the steps.

MCCAY: I love that one.

So, I thought, wow, it’s kind of an interesting image, and that’s why I did that painting. I just liked it.

OSBORNE: Linda Hummer, who I liked very much,

used to live about two blocks from me. Now they’ve MCCAY: The other larger painting in the show is

Maine Portrait.

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Midnight, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

moved, but she brought those two dogs. She was a dog lover, and she would often walk by here and she came in with them. They were beautiful. She was wonderful with animals. She was so devoted to them. I guess this is my animal world. Anybody that has them knows they’re demanding, but they give back so much. They’re so devoted—most of them— to you, especially the dogs. MCCAY: They are. Thank you, Liz, for this great

conversation. Midnight I, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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Untitled (Sleeping Dogs), 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION All works are by Elizabeth Osborne (American, born 1936) and are on loan courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, unless otherwise indicated. Minerva, 1987–88 Watercolor on paper, 18 7/8 x 41 in. (frame)

Sleeping Dog II, 1990 Graphite, charcoal, and watercolor on paper, 12 1/4 x 16 in.

Sleeping Dog (17 ), 2002 Graphite, charcoal, and watercolor on paper, 12 x 16 in.

Untitled (Sleeping Dog 24), 1989 Graphite, charcoal, and watercolor on paper, 12 1/4 x 16 in.

Sleeping Dog III, 1990 Graphite, charcoal, and watercolor on paper, 12 x 16 in.

Cat, 2014 Oil on paper, 24 x 19 in.

Dog on Purple Field, 1990 Graphite, charcoal, and watercolor on paper, 10 x 15 in.

Minerva, 1998 Conte on paper, 14 x 17 in.

Minerva I, 1998, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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Jasper on Steps, 2015 Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.


Minerva, 1987-88, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia) Photography by Rich Echelmeyer.

Dog on Purple Field, 1990, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

Sleeping Dog (17), 2002, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

Maine Portrait, 2016 Oil on canvas, 54 x 54 in.

Ramsey, 2016 Oil on paper, 22 1/2 x 30 in.

Midnight, 2016 Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 40 in.

Sleeping Dogs (Koro and Ramsey), 2016 Watercolor and graphite on paper, 9 x 12 1/2 in.

Midnight I, 2016 Watercolor on paper, 19 1/2 x 24 in. Midnight II, 2016 Watercolor on paper, 19 1/4 x 24 in.

Untitled (Sleeping Dogs), 2016 Charcoal and watercolor on paper, 22 3/4 x 30 in. Doggie Daycare, 2016–17 Oil on canvas, 53 3/4 x 53 3/4 in. Courtesy of Dr. Janice Gordon

Sumi, 2016 Watercolor and graphite on paper, 9 x 12 in.

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Midnight II, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia)

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Woodmere Art Museum receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Support provided in part by The Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Š 2018 Woodmere Art Museum. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. Photography provided by Locks Gallery, Philadelphia unless otherwise noted. Front cover: Midnight I, 2016, by Elizabeth Osborne (Courtesy of the artist and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia) ELIZABETH OSBORNE: ANIMAL PAINTINGS AND WATERCOLORS

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Elizabeth Osborne  

One of Philadelphia’s most respected artists, Elizabeth Osborne (born 1936) is often drawn to the beauty and special personalities of househ...

Elizabeth Osborne  

One of Philadelphia’s most respected artists, Elizabeth Osborne (born 1936) is often drawn to the beauty and special personalities of househ...