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Dark Sea, oil on canvas, 2000; (above) Studio Westward View,
oil on canvas, 1999-2000. Courtesy Locks Gallery, Philadelphia.
Osborne FA59 once kept
a studio in a former funeral home. Looking at the color-saturated canvases
that define the painters latest work, you can see why this wasnt a good
didnt like it, she recalls during a visit to her current studio, in
Philadelphias Old City, one October morning. It was too dark and gloomy.
This space, however, is anything but. Sun pours through four skylights,
illuminating 20 years of spattered paint on the blue wooden floors, which
her Cairn terrier-mutt, Jasper, romps across. The colorful stripes of
the dogs plush dumbbell toy echo a stunning motif that runs through many
of her paintingsboth wide and skinny bands of rainbow colors that seem
to represent, in turns, book spines, paint cansand the artist herself.
Osborne laughs when she realizes that even the fuzzy striped sweater-vest
she happens to be wearing this morning matches her canvases.
paintings were part of her fall exhibition, Vantage, held at Philadelphias
Locks Gallery. Philadelphia Inquirer critic Edward J. Sozanski
praised Osborne for her Dionysian commitment to vibrant, saturated color
as well as her superb Apollonian sense of order and placement.
a child growing up in Lansdale, Pa., Osborne loved to draw and paint.
Her mother was taking classes at Penn and became friends with many of
her instructors. One of them, the late philosophy professor Dr. Louis
W. Flaccus, took a special interest in the young artist, buying her supplies
and critiquing her work.
found additional role models at Saturday classes at the University of
the Arts and at Friends Central School before enrolling at the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts. Osborne came to Penn to round out her education
at a relatives urging. (Both her mother and father had died of separate
illnesses by the time she was 12.) I had mixed feelings about it, she
confesses, because all I wanted to do was paint. (She did meet her current
husband, the Hon. Ronald P. Wertheim W54 L57, who was then editing Penns
Law Review, on campus. They dated for about six months before going
their separate ways and marrying other people. Then Wertheim, a judge
in Washington, D.C., came back to Philadelphia in 1987 for his 30th-year
Law School Reunion and called her up to go to lunch. They were both getting
divorced. After this meeting they began dating each other again and married
in 1991. Osbornes daughter from her earlier marriage, Audrey Osborne
Cooper C94, graduated from Penn soon afterward; shes now attending art
her return from a Fulbright scholarship trip to Paris after graduation,
Osborne took a job as an assistant art teacher at Friends Central. I
didnt like working with kids who werent really in love with painting.
I found it frustrating to try to discipline them, she says. I was always
cleaning up messes. In 1963, she became the third woman to join the faculty
at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she still teaches
one day a week. Osborne has also served as a visiting professor at Penn.
in her career, she worked with a more muted palette. Then in the 1970s,
a student of hers at the Academy was pouring acrylic in the manner of
the Color Field painters. Osborne gave it a try. That did change my palette,
she says. I started using much more intense color and layering color.
Throughout the 1980s she worked primarily with watercolors; she then decided
she missed the weight and texture of oils and returned to that medium.
the exhibition catalogue states, the interiors in Vantage form
an extended, but oblique self portrait of the artist. They also demonstrate
in interesting ways the transition between reality and unreality.
View Bridge, vertical blocks of colorsuggesting an artists canvasstand
near a doorway looking out to a distant bridge over water. This did sort
of symbolize me, Osborne says. I was standing right here, she gestures
to a window at one end of her long studio with a view of the Benjamin
Franklin Bridge, looking out to the outside.
think the artist is always very much aware of their own space and their
inner thoughts and how they relate to the world, Osborne says. Because
they spend so much time alonetheyre so solitary, most artists and you
can get a little skewed that way. Teaching is a kind of relief from the
seclusion of the studio, she adds, though sometimes its frustrating
to have to stop working.
Studio Westward View, a branch with three persimmons rests on a table
in the foreground by a colorful piece of cloth. The trio of fruit are
repeated in a veiled painting that hangs in the background. To the right,
a window with a cityscape view could be just thator the image on another
canvas. Osborne frequently incorporates paintings within her paintings,
sometimes paying tribute to artist friends, living and dead, with miniature
representations of their works tucked into her own.
series of works in Vantage, her landscapes and seascapes, convey
a hypnotic calm with colorful, undulating strokes created by combing paint
across the canvas with a large, stiff brush.
Locks Gallerys Douglas Schaller describes Osborne as a gifted colorist
who fluidly crosses the boundaries of representational, figurative and
abstract art. Osborne says she sees herself moving further away from a
literal representation of space. Yes, I may want to take the table out
next time, she says, studying Studio Westward View. I might just do
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