About this Painting
The Blue Boy, (1770) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) oil on canvas
The best known painting at The Huntington, The Blue Boy was Gainsborough’s first attempt at full length Van Dyck dress – knee breeches and a slashed doublet with a lace collar – which is based on the work of Anthony van Dyck, the 17th-century Flemish painter who had revolutionized British art. The shimmering blue satin is rendered in a spectrum of minutely calibrated tints – indigo, lapis, cobalt, slate, turquoise, charcoal, and cream – which have been applied in extremely complex layers of vigorous slashes and fine strokes.
Blue Boy did not seduce its first viewers with an image of a celebrity or with literary or historical allusions, but with Gainsborough’s command of paint and the sheer mastery of his brushwork. Henry E. Huntington purchased the painting along with Gainsborough’s Cottage Door and Reynolds’s Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse from the Duke of Westminster.