This is a preparatory study for one of Osborne's best-known street scenes of the 1880s Cherry Ripe (Ulster Museum, Belfast). It includes figures and characters familiar from many of the artist's pictures: a street seller, crop-haired 'urchins', girls in straw bonnets, men gossiping, and wandering dogs; and activities such as a transaction taking place, here buying cherries; and people from different classes and generations.
Figures are clustered into small groups and placed together into an 'ensemble'. Attention is focused on the group in the foreground. These figures are skillfully outlined, and delicately shaded, giving a sense of volume. As in several open-air studies of children, e.g. St Patrick's Close, 1887 (National Gallery of Ireland), Osborne places the figure of a boy in the foreground, but cuts across it, to bring a sense of closeness to the viewer.
The location is the High Street, Rye (A. le Harival, National Gallery of Ireland Acquisitions, 1988, p. 178), with its vivid red tile roofs and brick chimney-stacks. The figures of the girls on the right are sketched more lightly, while those behind and the donkey and cart are suggested only by feint lines. The shadowy perspective of the street adds a sense of space. In some of his paintings, Osborne made variations from his preparatory drawings, but in Cherry Ripe he follows the figures and placing with absolute faithfulness. Such drawings show how carefully he prepared and composed his open-air scenes.
Cherry Ripe was painted circa 1889. Osborne also painted a careful watercolour, and two oil studies, of the same street (Sheehy, op. cit.).