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Artist Philip Osment (1861-1947)

Philip Osment

Philip Osment was a painter of marine, coastal and landscape scenes in watercolour. He lived in Liverpool for some of his life when he was actively painting and does not appear to have exhibited so most of his paintings are still found in that area. His scenes are often of Welsh views as in the example above - this shows Llyyn Idwal and the Devil's Kitchen which is at the head of the Ogwen pass in Snowdonia. A more detailed biography supplied by Barrie Lees is as follows:

Philip Osment was born into a family of Exeter silversmiths in 1861.

His grandfather John Osment was active as a silversmith in Mint Street from about 1818 to 1845. And the youngest of John’s eight children – Philip Daniel Osment – was the artist’s father. Things were looking good for Philip Daniel by the time of the census in 1861. He had married Sarah Wills the year before, and was now a 21-year-old master silversmith in Exeter employing two youngsters. His first son – Philip junior – was born the same year, and a brother John Wills Osment arrived two years later.

Then tragedy struck. He became bankrupt in 1864, and died the following year, leaving Sarah a widow with two toddlers. She was rescued by an Exeter artist, Reuben Tremlett, who must have had a decisive influence on his young stepson.  

The Tremletts also came from a creative family. Reuben’s grandfather had been a smith, and at the time of the 1841 census Reuben’s father James was working as an artist while lodging at a house in Shoreditch. Meanwhile his wife was looking after their children back in Exeter.

In the 1871 we find widower Reuben and widow Sarah living together in Liverpool. There is no evidence of a wedding in England or Wales, so perhaps they married elsewhere – or even risked flouting convention after moving so far from their native Devon. There were four children: Emily, aged 8, from Reuben’s first marriage; Philip and John, aged 9 and 7, from Sarah’s first marriage; and their shared child, two-year-old Marion. Their home was in Phoebe Anne Street, Everton, and Reuben’s parents were living close by in Sykes Street, which formed a T-junction with it. 

Reuben had begun his working life as a jeweller’s apprentice, but in 1861 we find him listed as an artist and photographer. In 1871 he calls himself a “portrait and landscape painter”, and in 1881 just “artist, painter”. By 1891 he has crossed the Mersey to Birkenhead and is working as a photographer. He died there aged 56 the following year.

Philip Osment is described as an “artistic student” at the age of 17 while living with Reuben and his mother in the 1881 census. But it seems he may have been a bit wild – in 1884 an advert appeared in the Liverpool Mercury saying: “If Philip Osment, artist, does not call at 46 Lavan-street [a continuation of Phoebe Anne St], within seven days, the articles belonging to him will be sold to pay expenses.” It looks as though he may have moved to a boarding house, and then left without paying the rent.

By 1891 he had moved to Wales to work as a landscape artist, living alone near the River Conway. Ten years later he is still working on his landscapes, but living as a boarder in the house of fellow landscapist Peter Glent [?] and his large family in Llanrhos, between Llandudno and Conway.

Philip’s surviving pictures show that he visited Anglesey, Deganwy (only a mile from Llanrhos), Snowdonia and the Dee Estuary. And it may have been around this time that he visited Ellesmere Port and painted the Manchester Ship Canal. He probably had little success, because during the 1900s he switched from painting to photography – like his step-father. In the 1911 census – at the age of 49 – he is back living with his widowed mother in Liverpool and working as an “artist (photographic)”. His half sister Marion Tremlett, aged 42, is no doubt helping because she is described as a “photographic retoucher”.

There is no further information on Philip’s movements for the next quarter of a century, but we assume from his paintings – which are mainly watercolours with a few oils – that he travelled quite widely. He probably worked in the Scottish Highlands and the Lake District, and certainly spent much time in Cornwall. He also painted in Hampshire – in Old and New Alresford, and in Romsey.

Experts believe that the quality of his work declined during his later years, and it has been suggested that this was caused by alcohol. There is no evidence that he ever married.

Philip surfaces again in a trade directory of 1938, which shows he was still working as an artist at the age of 77. He was living at 4 Pennsylvania Road, Old Swan, about 3 miles north east of Liverpool city centre. Presumably he paid for an entry in the hopes of drumming up more business. In 1945 he is again living with his half-sister Marion, this time in Hampshire.

Marion, perhaps thanks to skills taught her by her father and by Philip, had married a photographer in 1915. He was Alfred William Holliday, a widower with six children, whose shop was on Jewry Street, Winchester. The couple were in their mid-40s and there were no more children. But by 1945 Alfred had died, and Marion was living at a house called Conway in Haig Road, New Alresford. This was to be Philip’s last home, before he became terminally ill. He was taken to the former workhouse infirmary at Fareham, where he died of cancer of the little toe of his right foot on May 24 1947 at the age of 84.

Philip was buried in the churchyard at New Alresford. Marion put a death notice in two local papers – but there is no memorial stone.

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Robert Fraser

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