Tuesday, November 18, 2014


At first, I thought I would show you a whole bunch of photos that Mom took in antique shops lately, but now I decided to just talk about two pictures that you can almost always find in any antique shop. I think it's probably a law or something that these two prints are there, and the reason I think that is because Mom says they always are.

The Blue Boy, by Thomas Gainsborough

The first picture is called The Blue Boy.  It was painted in about 1770 by a famous English artist named Thomas Gainsborough.  The young man in the painting may have been Jonathan Buttall (1752-1805), who was the son of a wealthy hardware merchant.  However, nobody knows absolutely for sure that he was the subject of the painting.  What we do know is that Mr. Gainsborough asked him to pose in 17th-century clothes so that he would look like the people in paintings done by the artist Anthony van Dyck, who was an artist that Mr. Gainsborough really admired.  The subjects in van Dyck's paintings always wore foppish, fru-fru outfits because that was apparently the style back then.

The painting is almost life-sized.  It is 48" wide and 70" tall.  It was owned by Jonathan Buttall until he filed for bankruptcy in 1796.  Then it was bought by the politician John Nesbitt, and after that by the portrait painter John Hoppner.  Earl Grosvenor added the work to his collection in about 1809, and it was passed down to his descendants.  An art dealer named Joseph Duveen bought The Blue Boy in 1921.  Meanwhile, it was exhibited several times, including at the British Institution, the Royal Academy, and other places.  Lots of people liked it and owned prints of it.

Then, in a shocking move, Mr. Duveen sold the painting to an American, the railway pioneer Henry Edwards Huntington. The NY Times reported the purchase price as $640,000, which was a record high at that time for any painting.  This amount would be over $8.5 million today. Before The Blue Boy left Britain, it was put on display for a short time at the National Gallery.  More than 90,000 people went to see it one last time in England.

Self Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough was born in 1727 in Suffolk.  In 1740, he went to London to study art, and in 1746, he married Margaret Burr.  They had two daughters.  The family lived in Bath, where the artist was patronized by fashionable society.  He began exhibiting in London, and in 1769, he became a founding member of the Royal Academy.  He didn't always get along with the group, though, and sometimes he pulled his work out of an exhibition.

A Landscape with Cattle and Figures by a Stream and a Distant Bridge
Thomas Gainsborough
Mr. Gainsborough preferred painting landscapes to painting portraits.  He is said to be one of the originators of the 18th century landscape school.  He died of cancer in 1788 and was buried at St. Anne's Church, Kew.

Spitz Dog, by Thomas Gainsborough
(Painting dogs is even better than painting landscapes, in my opinion!)

The second picture that a person often sees in an antique shop is called Pinkie.  The complete name of the portrait is Sarah Barrett Moulton: Pinkie, and it was painted in 1794 by Sir Thomas Lawrence.  This painting also ended up in the Huntington Library at San Marino, California. It hangs in the gallery across from The Blue Boy.  The Huntington collection specializes in 18th-century English portraiture, and these two paintings are its centerpieces.

Sarah Barrett Moulton: Pinkie,
by Thomas Lawrence

Sarah Barrett Moulton was born in Jamaica in 1783.  She and her two older brothers went to England in 1792 so that they could get a better education.  The next year, Sarah's grandmother wrote to her niece in Surrey and asked her to commission a full-length portrait of Sarah.  Sir Thomas Lawrence was chosen as the artist, and he did the painting in 1794, when Sarah was 11.  Sadly, in April of the next year, at age 12, Sarah died in Greenwich.

Pinkie was one of the last pieces acquired by Mr. Huntington, in 1927.  The work now hangs in the main gallery that was built by the Huntington foundation in 1934.  The painting achieved part of its fame by association with The Blue Boy.  Some museum guests have thought the two works were done by the same artist, but they were not.  Also, they were painted about 25 years apart.

Self Portrait, 1788
by Sir Thomas Lawrence, PRA
Sir Thomas Lawrence, who produced the portrait of Sarah Moulton, was a child prodigy and self-taught artist.  He was born in 1769 in Bristol.  His father was an innkeeper.  By the age of 10, the boy was supporting his family by selling his pastel portraits.  He had a true gift for handling paint and capturing likenesses.  In 1791, he became an associate member of the Royal Academy.  He became a full member in 1794 and president in 1820.

In spite of his talent and success in art, Sir Lawrence was usually in debt.  He was very unhappy in love, and he never married.  By the time of his death in 1830, he was the most fashionable portrait painter in Europe.

Anyway, if you want to see Pinkie or The Blue Boy, you can go to The Huntington Library, which is in California, close to Pasadena.  Besides books and paintings, they have lots of interesting plants there, including a great big cactus garden.  But if you can't afford to go to California, just visit your local antiques store, and you're almost certain to find some version of these two famous paintings there.


  1. So in other words it's not an original painting I got its a copy..since the original is in a library

    1. Yes, I think yours must be a copy or a reproduction of some type. You would have paid thousands of dollars to get the original!