Gainsborough's Blue Boy ★★★★ The National Gallery | Jan 25 - May 15, 2022 (Free Entry)


Exactly one hundred years ago The Blue Boy was sold to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in California. Before the iconic portrait left the UK it was on display at The National Gallery for three weeks and was visited by thousands who probably knew it from myriad representations in advertising, ceramics, needlepoints etc. At last, one of the most famous paintings in the world has returned to London for a limited showing. Newly restored The Blue Boy is positively radiant and the subtleties of the representation are recaptured. The youth on the cusp of manhood, projecting confidence but with more than a hint of vulnerability, is fully exposed and his image can be appreciated in the context of a small, but delightfully informative, exhibition. Gainsborough's best-known work is displayed with four other portraits, two by the artist himself and two by Sir Anthony van Dyck who inspired his approach to the genre. There is also a short film about the restoration process and a pathway through the Gallery's collection that situates this masterpiece. When the painting left Britain in 1922, the director of The National Gallery at the time, Sir Charles Holmes, wrote "au revoir" on its wooden stretcher. It is quite wonderful to see The Blue Boy back again!

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Boy, 1770. © Courtesy of the Huntington Art Museum, San Marino, California

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