The Blue Boy (c. 1770) by Thomas Gainsborough

The Blue Boy - Thomas Gainsborough - 1770

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Blue Boy
ArtistThomas Gainsborough
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions178 x 122 cm
Art MovementRococo
Current LocationHuntington Library, San Marino, CA, US
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About The Blue Boy

Thomas Gainsborough’s oil on canvas painting from the 18th century, initially titled “A Portrait of a Young Gentleman”, was unveiled at London’s Royal Academy of Arts in 1770. The young subject is standing in the contrapposto pose with great attention to detail given to his suit, which dominates most of the frame. The painting is significantly influenced by the Flemish painter Van Dyck and Lord Strange’s portrait’s cool hues.

It has been nicknamed “The Blue Boy” due to prominent blue hues used by Gainsborough, making it one of his best-known works. He lets us experience a rich variety of cool blues from light blue tones on the jacket to darker blue shades on his cap and shoe buckles. Art historians noted that he deliberately picked out such colours as blue for its metaphorical meaning as it represents royalty, courage, and loyalty.

The painting is set in dark grey walls which contrast beautifully with the boy’s bright garment.The style and colour-scheme are intentional without any attempt to blend into any backgrounds or landscapes that may suggest wealth or status. It will be showcased at London’s National Gallery in January 2022 along with other impressions carefully curated by Gainsborugh as part of an exhibition featuring nearly twenty more paintings he did between 1750-1788 adding value to its historical significance beyond its artistic reputation.

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