Osborne is born in Limerick, County Limerick. He leaves Ireland for Brussels at the age of eighteen, where he is appointed music instructor for the eldest son of the Dutch king, William of Orange, and becomes friends with Charles de Bériot. With de Bériot he is later to compose more than thirty duos for violin and piano, which enjoy great popularity.
In 1830 Osborne fights for the royalists in the Belgian Revolution, and after his capture and release he moves to Paris. Here he studies under Johann Peter Pixis, François-Joseph Fétis and Friedrich Kalkbrenner and becomes friendly with some of the leading musicians of his time including Hector Berlioz and Frédéric Chopin.
In 1843, Osborne settles permanently in London, although he maintains a home in Paris until 1848, when he encourages a nervous Chopin during the latter’s tour of England in 1848. In London he holds directorships of the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Royal Academy of Music and conducts the Amateur Musical Society from 1852.
Osborne’s compositions are mostly on a small scale and include 83 original piano works, 178 transcriptions and fantasias for piano solo, 24 piano duos, 44 vocal works and 55 chamber music pieces. His unpublished works include two operas and some orchestral overtures, all now lost. Berlioz observes that Osborne’s songs and trios are “lofty in style and spacious in design.” One of his most popular compositions is a piano piece entitled La Pluie de perles (Shower of Pearls), which goes through many editions. Some of his piano music is written to display his own virtuosity, while others are conceived as salon music for domestic entertainment.
George Alexander Osborne dies on November 17, 1893 at his home in Regent’s Park, London, at the age of 87.