The Blue Boy (c 1770)
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88)
oil on canvas, 70 5/8 x 48 3/4 inches
The best known painting at the Huntington, Gainsborough's The Blue Boy
, portrays Jonathan Buttall, the son of a successful hardware merchant, who was a close friend of the artist. The work was executed during Gainsborough's extended stay in Bath before he finally settled in London in 1774.
The artist has dressed the young man in a costume dating from about 140 years before the portrait was painted. This type of costume was familiar through the portraits of the great Flemish painter, Anthony van Dyck (1559-1641), who was resident in England during the early 17th century. Gainsborough greatly admired the work of Van Dyck and seems to have conceived The Blue Boy
as an act of homage to that master.
Mr. Huntington purchased the painting along with Gainsborough's The Cottage Door
and Reynolds's Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse
from the Duke of Westminster.