OBEN, JAMES GEORGE

(fl. 1779-1819)

Landscape Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

His real name was Brien, or O'Brien, and for many years he worked under those names in Dublin. He studied in the Dublin Society's Schools and gained a medal for a landscape in 1779. He was living at No. 30 Bride Street, in 1780, and in that year, as James George Brien, contributed eight views, drawings, to the Society of Artists in William Street. From 1785 to 1798 he was residing at No. 45 and 49 Marlborough Street. Drawings by him, as J. G. Brien, were engraved in Grose's "Antiquities of Ireland," viz.: "Church of St. Canice," "Franciscan Abbey, Kilkenny," "Abbey of Jerpoint," "Kilkenny Castle," "Thomastown Abbey," "Carnew Castle" and "Wicklow Abbey." He seems to have left Dublin in 1798 and gone to London. In 1801 he appeared as an exhibitor at the Parliament House under the name of Oben, and it was not at first recognized that he was the Brien or O'Brien who, a few years before, had been well known in Dublin, and that he had changed his Irish name for a German one with the idea that the works of a foreign artist would be preferred to those of a native. He exhibited fourteen landscape drawings, principally of Welsh scenery.

In the following year he sent five tinted drawings, part of the result of his tours in North Wales, Cumberland, Wicklow and Kilkenny, which the catalogue announced were to be engraved in aquatint and published by himself. This project, however, did not materialize; the only aquatint by him that has been met with being that of "The Foster Aqueduct," done some years later. Oben resided at his old address, 49 Marlborough Street, and in 1809 he held an exhibition there of his works, consisting of seventy landscapes in water-colour, mostly views in Ireland, Wales and the north of England. His style is said to have been characterized by extreme attention to detail and careful finish but wanting in boldness and freedom; his skies were put in with much feeling and effect, while his foregrounds were laboured and too minute in detail. He attempted in his drawings to obtain the effect of oil pictures, and used wax in picking out the lighter parts of foliage, etc. Oben left Dublin after his exhibition in 1809, and went to London where he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1810 to 1816. Among the works so exhibited were the following Irish views:

After dinner in the Dargle, 1810.

Farm House in the Vale of Arklow, 1810.

View of the Foster Aqueduct, Royal Canal, Dublin, 1811. From this drawing the artist published a large aquatint, 13 ¾ by 18 ¼ inches, in 1813. It is inscribed: This View of the City of Dublin, the Bay, Mountains, &c., the Royal Canal and Foster Aqueduct is most humbly Dedicated to the Rt. Honble. John Foster M.R.I.A., by the author, James George Oben. Published March 17th 1813 at J. G. Oben's, 35 Charlotte St. Fitzroy Sqre, London.

Fenner Rock, on the River Boyne, 1811.

A Waterfall in Co. Kilkenny, 1812.

View in the Devil's Glen, Co. Wicklow, 1813.

View of Glendalough on St. Kevin's Day, 1816.

Oben was living in 1819. His widow, Mary, died at Ballylinan, Queen's Co., on the 8th January, 1849, in the 74th year of her age.

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