Happy Birthday Thomas Gainsborough, born this day in 1727.
The history of British Portraiture wouldn’t be the same without him, nor indeed, British art history.
At the beginning of the 20th century wealthy Americans couldn’t get enough of his works. The great art dealer Joseph Duveen brokered some amazing deals between impoverished aristocrats in Britain with rich businessman in the US, where a glamorous Gainsborough on the wall showed everyone you had made it, in the same way that a Jeff Koons does now. Possession of a Koons now might have more to do with making money while you show off, whereas back in the day, the Gainsborough was often intended to be a long term focus of a serious private collection of Old masters.
Either way, one such major work ended up at the Huntington Museum and that was Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, one of the most recognisable works in art history. Painted around 1770 it was acquired by Henry E. Huntington through Duveen and has recently been under going an extensive restoration project. More here