We are grateful to Julian Campbell for providing us with the following entry.
Walter Osborne spent a considerable part of the year 1883 in Brittany, working at Dinan, Pont-Aven and in late summer and autumn, at Quimperlé. He painted the narrow streets, the market places, and the apple orchards of this attractive market town in Finisterre, which was situated at the confluence of the rivers Elle and Isole. His best known Breton painting Apple Gathering, Quimperle (1883; National Gallery of Ireland) features the tower of the church Notre Dame de le Assomption rising above the roof tops of the town.
The present picture shows a narrow street, the Rue St Sebastien, that runs down to the river Isole below (this street may now have been renamed the Rue Jacques Cartier or the Rue Lebas). In all of Osborne's Breton pictures figures are carefully placed within the composition. Here, four or five figures walk down the narrow pathway towards the valley, leading our eye into the picture while the wooded hillside of apple trees is pleasingly framed by the houses and roof tops of the village.
Osborne continues the practice, commenced in Antwerp, of giving careful attention to the details and texture of old stone work, bricks, cobble stones, crumbling plaster and slate roofs, as well as rustic carts and wicker-work baskets, but painting in a more relaxed, harmonious manner. A small area in the centre of the composition, the wood panel marked with simple pencil lines, interestingly shows his working methods.
The figure of the man in the foreground, with hat, faded blue breeches, clogs and stick, echoes that of a similar Breton peasant in Old Convent Gate, Dinan (National Gallery of Ireland) by Osborne's friend and compatriat Joseph M. Kavanagh, painted in the same year, 1883.
Although painted on a small scale, Osborne's picture is as perfectly realised as his larger Breton canvases. The picture combines a lively harmony of colours: greens, greys, browns, grey-greens, blues, whites and blue-greys. Slanting sunlight that falls upon small sections of pathway and roof top, and lights the treetops, and wood smoke that drifts in the air, exquisitely evoke the atmosphere of early autumn.
A narrow street, Quimperlé was exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1884, along with several other Breton paintings by Osborne.