“It’s my nature, I just like to challenge myself and try new things.”
In a 2009 interview with the Washington DC based arts writer Jonathon L Fischer, the Philadelphia painter Elizabeth Osborne stated “Some artists will stay with one theme, like Morandi. You always think of Morandi because he stuck with those little bottles, which were magnificent, for his whole life. I tend to move from one subject to another and then go back again and re-visit.”
Although her current works have no discernable subject, they are explorations of light. Now in her seventh decade Osborne has embraced abstraction using color to re-create the light of remember landscapes. As she has said “If a painting doesn’t have light, somehow it dies.”
A student at the conservative Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 1950s, Osborne became a member of the institutions faculty in the mid-1960s after a Fulbright scholarship year spent in Paris. A position she held for the best part of 50 years.
It was an academy student who introduced Osborne to the importance of color in the early 1970s, previously she had been using a subdued palette for her mainly figurative work.
And as she told WRTI public radio “All of a sudden I fell in love with color and it just started to emerge in my work and I think color and light are really [the] driving forces in how I see things and make me want to go and put it down on canvas.”
The discovery of color coincided with a broadening of her subject matter to include still life and landscapes. Likewise her stylistic approach to her work gradually moved from the realistic to the abstract.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Edward Sozanski wrote in his review of Osborne’s 2009 exhibition The Color of Light “As the paintings become more abstracted, her palette becomes correspondingly more electric, reaching a climactic intensity in the landscapes and seascapes from the mid-1990s into this decade… Osborne's art is subliminally autobiographical and meditative, particularly about the art-making life and the studio environment that makes it possible.”
About which she told The Pennsylvania Gazette “I think the artist is always very much aware of their own space and their inner thoughts and how they relate to the world. Because they spend so much time alone—they’re so solitary, most artists —and you can get a little skewed that way. Teaching is a kind of relief [though] sometimes it’s frustrating to have to stop working.”
Her current exhibition Veils of Color:Juxtapositions and Recent Work by Elizabeth Osborne is on show at Pennsylvania’s James A. Michener Art Museum until the 15th of November.