The Blue Boy

June 11, 2022 - The Blue Boy is back on view in the Thornton Portrait Gallery in the Huntington Art Gallery.

The Blue Boy's Trip to London
The Huntington lent its iconic "Blue Boy" to the National Gallery, London for an exhibition exactly 100 years after Gainsborough’s masterpiece left London for California. The four-month exhibition ran from Jan. 25–May 3, 2022 before he returned home to The Huntington permanently. Read

IN THE NEWS: July 9, 2021 - Los Angeles Times: Let 'The Blue Boy' have his safe sojourn to London
After several years of considerable examination and discussion, and after instituting a rigorous set of protocols, the Huntington has decided to lend Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy” to the National Gallery, London — but only upon expert advice and only under very specific, restrictive conditions. The long-term well-being of this iconic work has always been the Huntington’s guiding principle for any discussion about the possibility of a loan. Read

Blue Boy before and after conservation

Thomas Gainsborough's (1727–1788) iconic painting first appeared in public in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1770 as A Portrait of a Young Gentleman, where it received high acclaim, and by 1798 it was being called "The Blue Boy"—a nickname that stuck. Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927) purchased The Blue Boy in 1921 for $728,000, the highest price ever paid for a painting at the time. By bringing a British treasure to the United States, Huntington imbued an already well-known image with even greater notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic. But beyond its cultural significance, the painting is considered a masterpiece of artistic virtuosity. Gainsborough's command of color and mastery of brushwork are on full display in the painting, made even more apparent as a result of the conservation and restoration of this priceless portrait in the 18-month initiative and exhibition, "Project Blue Boy ." 


Project Blue Boy

In 2017, conservators began a preliminary analysis of The Blue Boy using a range of imaging techniques. This was followed in 2018 by "Project Blue Boy," a restoration project that offered visitors a glimpse into the technical process of conserving one of Gainsborough's finest works. During the public phase of the project, visitors were able to interact with The Huntington's senior paintings conservator Christina O'Connell while she worked to conserve the painting in-gallery. Now off view for final inpainting, varnish, technical study, supportive backing, and framing adjustment, the project concludes on March 26, 2020, with the restored Blue Boy returning to its original place in the Thornton Portrait Gallery

More About The Blue Boy

image of The Blue Boy painting with infrared light
The Science Behind Conservation
image of The Blue Boy
Blue Boy's History
Video: Project Blue Boy
Examining Blue Boy
Saving One of Western Art’s Most Iconic Paintings
Video: Eye to Eye with Blue Boy
Los Angeles Times: Exorcising the Ghosts of Art
image of book cover "Blue Boy and Co"
Blue Boy & Co.
VERSO: How Do You Frame a Masterpiece?


Blue Boy & Co.
Blue Boy & Co.: European Art at The Huntington available in the Huntington Store

Spotify Playlist


A blue-themed musical companion to the Project Blue Boy exhibition. Enjoy the sounds and share the playlist with your friends. (A free Spotify account is required to access playlist)

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