T03648 Royal Avenue, Chelsea c. 1900
Oil on canvas 19 7/8 × 24 (505 × 610)
Presented anonymously in memory of Terence Rattigan 1983
Prov: Augustus John: Admiral Sir Caspar John, by whom given to the donor 1979
Exh: Autumn Exhibition of Pictures and Sculpture, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, September–December 1901 (133, as ‘The Avenue’); A Memorial Exhibition of Pictures by the late W. Evelyn Osborn, Wm.B Paterson, October–November 1906 (4)
In this painting Royal Avenue, Chelsea is seen from King's Road looking towards Sir Christopher Wren's Royal Hospital (1682-c.1691). Sir Caspar John remembered the painting hanging in his father's home; for many years Sir Caspar and others believed it to be by Paul Maitland. Owing to a certain similarity in style, Osborn's and Maitland's paintings are sometimes confused and this is exacerbated by the fact that after Osborn's death his paintings were left with Maitland, one of his few close friends.
In Chiaroscuro (1952), Augustus John wrote about meeting Osborn in the Blue Kailin Restaurant, Chelsea:
In the corner by the fireplace, a rather silent and dejected figure used to sit: this was William Osborne [sic]. Henry Lamb, then a young artist lately arrived from Manchester, and I soon got to know him, and the three of us became intimate and spent a good deal of time together. We found a common interest in the subject of painting, for Osborne [sic] too was an artist. Our senior in years, ‘Billy’ seemed vastly our superior in knowledge... A once elegant but now dilapidated row of houses in the King's Road, with their peeling stucco, reminded Billy of a bevy of elderly ladies vainly trying to camouflage the ravages of time under a reckless application of rouge. This sort of thing was very ‘ninetyish’ of course, but it was new to us. Our friend claimed that this method permitted him to paint in any light: by a learned transposition of colour he could deal with Nature in any mood. This was theory: practically, he preferred the weather to accommodate itself to his palette, as in London it often did. He used few colours and those sparingly. Black was his basic pigment. ‘As for the rose of bricks’, he said, ‘a little burnt umber and white suffices’ (pp.228–9).
At different times Osborn was known variously as William Evelyn, Will E., W. Evelyn and Billy.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986