​Thomas Gainsborough - The Blue BoyOil on canvas, around 1770, 179 x 123 cm, Huntington Art Collection in San Marino



Description and interpretation of the famous painting 'The Blue Boy' by Thomas Gainsborough!

Thomas Gainsborough - The Blue Boy

This work has been copied, satirised and quoted dozens of times. Already in 1770, at its first exhibition, "the blue boy" was celebrated. Gainsborough thus consolidated his status as a great painter. He wanted to submit the work to the Royal Academy and strengthen his reputation in London.

Today the boy is identified as Jonathan Butall, the son of a rich hardware dealer. He became a good friend of the painter and later even served as grave bearer at his funeral. He took a sweeping black hat off his head. Here he coquettishly supports his arm in his side and seems to say: "Well, what do you want from me? The clothing does not correspond to 18th century fashion, but rather to the 17th century, and is therefore to be understood as a study. Perhaps the composition was written by the great Dutchman Anthonis van Dyck, who had painted a portrait of Charles II more than 100 years earlier.

Probably the work was not a commissioned work. The canvas the painter used for this had already been used once.

The young painter preferred landscape painting to portrait painting, but also turned to this subject for economic reasons. This portrait is in the midst of this conflict: the painter called it "a landscape portrait". The boy is depicted in almost real body height and aimed at the far view. An anecdote reports that Gainsborough once told a visitor who was too close to the screen that it was not made to smell at him.

© the artinspector / alexandra tuschka