The Blue Boy

After major conservation project, The Blue Boy is back on view. See it now in The Huntington Art Gallery.

The gardens, store, 1919 café, and select galleries are open. All visitors, including Members must reserve tickets online in advance. TICKETS/INFO

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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