Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy RETURNS to Britain

Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy RETURNS to Britain exactly 100 years after curator at The Royal Academy scrawled ‘au revoir’ on the back as it set sale for the US (but it’s only in the National Gallery for 16 WEEKS)

  • Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait will return to UK 100 years after it left country 
  • The large painting was originally unveiled at London’s Royal Academy in 1770  
  • It has been on display at the Huntington Art Gallery in California, for past century
  • Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy is returning to Britain exactly 100 years after a curator at The Royal Academy scrawled ‘au revoir’ on the back as it set sale for the US.   

    Gainsborough’s 1770 oil on canvas will go on display at the National Gallery from tomorrow, marking an ‘unprecedented’ loan from the US.

    The painting, which shows a boy in a blue jacket and pantaloons, was originally unveiled at London‘s Royal Academy in 1770. 

    However, it has been on display at the Huntington Art Gallery in California, for the past century. 

    Gainsborough's 1770 oil on canvas will go on display at the National Gallery from tomorrow, marking an 'unprecedented' loan from the US

    Gainsborough’s 1770 oil on canvas will go on display at the National Gallery from tomorrow, marking an ‘unprecedented’ loan from the US

    Buttall owned the portrait among other artists before it was sold to dealer Joseph Duveen in 1921.

    The National Gallery’s then director Charles Holmes wrote ‘au revoir’ on the painting’s reverse, in the hope that the painting would return one day.

    And the painting will return, in his own private room near the grand entrance of the building, occupying an entire wall. 

    It will be displayed alongside four similar works from Gainsborough and Van Dyck for just 16 weeks.   

    Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, described the portrait as a ‘masterpiece of British art’ and said its return to the London gallery is ‘truly exceptional’ and a ‘unique opportunity for visitors to see Gainsborough at his dazzling best’.

    The painting, which shows a boy in a blue jacket and pantaloons, was originally unveiled at London's Royal Academy in 1770. Pictured: The Blue Boy on show at the London gallery on January 25, 1922

    The painting, which shows a boy in a blue jacket and pantaloons, was originally unveiled at London’s Royal Academy in 1770. Pictured: The Blue Boy on show at the London gallery on January 25, 1922

    The National Gallery's then director Charles Holmes wrote 'au revoir' on the painting's reverse, in the hope that the painting would return one day. Pictured: Thomas Gainsborough

    The National Gallery’s then director Charles Holmes wrote ‘au revoir’ on the painting’s reverse, in the hope that the painting would return one day. Pictured: Thomas Gainsborough 

    He added: ‘Rich in historical resonances, a painting of supreme poise and elegance, The Blue Boy is without doubt a masterpiece of British art.’

    Karen R. Lawrence, Huntington president, said: ‘This masterpiece has made an indelible mark on both art history and popular culture, capturing the imaginations of a wide range of audiences.

    ‘Given The Blue Boy’s iconic status at The Huntington, this is an unprecedented loan, one which we considered very carefully.

    ‘We hope that this partnership with the National Gallery will spark new conversations, appreciation and research on both sides of the Atlantic.’

    The Blue Boy will be part of a free exhibition in Room 46 which will also include a ‘select group of paintings that demonstrate the profound influence of Van Dyck on Gainsborough’s practice and identity’.  

    It will be available to view from January 25 until May 25 at the National Gallery.