Osborne makes an understated, yet expressive, sketch of his relative and colleague Sarah Purser. Her head is slightly turned to one side, and the light reflecting off her glasses hides her eyes. A few strands of hair fall on her forehead, but the rest of her hair (or a scarf) is rendered with soft lines, while the side of her face is shaded with feint hatched lines. In this sketch Osborne creates a characterful and expressive image of the sitter.
Sarah Purser was an older cousin of Osborne's. Born in 1848, she had grown up in Waterford, and studied art in Dublin and Paris, then established herself as a painter of genre and portraitist. She was quite an intellectual, formidable character, but here she is shown as relaxed.
Osborne's drawing probably dates from circa 1887, and may be a preparatory study for his pastel portrait of Sarah Purser (private collection), (see J. O'Grady, Sarah Purser, 1996, fig. 39; and J. Sheehy, Walter Osborne, 1983, no. 81). The head is held at a similar angle, although the garment is different. Purser was then in her late thirties, but looks extremely youthful in both pictures.
In the drawing the sitter's garments are conveyed with a few squiggles, and the rest of the picture is left bare. This gives a floating, dreamy quality reminiscent of the Symboliste painting of a woman Closed eyes by French artist Odilon Redon, 1880, (Musee d'Orsay, Paris).
We are very grateful to Dr Julian Campbell for providing the catalogue entries for lots 32-35 and lot 37.