The Literary Life Of Elizabeth Osborne’s Paintings

Texts about art are quite abundant but art about texts is infrequent. Books occasionally pop into still lives but most painting leave them out, which is disappointing because books are their own art form, inside and out. Philadelphia based artist Elizabeth Osborne loves to paint books in a quiet, fluid way that she has been crafting for decades.

With two big shows up now, Osborne and her book paintings are having a moment. She creates vibrant looks into the life of the educated aestheticist. You are given looks at bookshelves and readers, the art loving smart person who sits next to a stack of books and consumes. Her paintings are about interiors and exteriors, of the things inside and outside of minds, books, and homes. She pairs forms together, putting little rectangular books with big architectural columns and windows, placing the shapes together for realistic simplistic scene paintings.

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Yet, Osborne has an abstract quality to her and uses form to bleed shapes into shapes. She finds attractive book colors and uses them to take advantage of a colorful study. One painting that pushes into a shelf can very quickly morph into a row of colorful spines shaken up by the viewer’s eye. Abstract or not, the paintings have a dream quality to them. Like getting lost in a book, the paintings keep a foot in and out of what is real, by physical form or by subtle narrative.

Obsorne is also no child painter either: she is nearing eighty years old and is just now getting her due. Her works individually feel like paragraphs or short stories that are a part of a greater collection of literature drawn from her life. There is a definite love here and a brightness in these scenes. Whether you are a reader or not, Elizabeth Osborne’s works are colorful dedications to libraries big and small. Every home has a shelf of books, doesn’t it?

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