Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blue Boy and Pinkie

During my childhood I saw two portraits (reproductions) hanging on the walls of my house. They were supposedly very famous, but I always thought they were done by the same artist untill now. Today while browsing the internet I found out that they were done by different artists but have always been associated and confused as being done by the same artist. Today they hang together facing each other at the Huntington library.

The Blue Boy
The best known painting at the Huntington, Gainsborough's The Blue Boy, portrays Jonathan Buttall, the son of a successful hardware merchant, who was a close friend of the artist. The work was executed during Gainsborough's extended stay in Bath before he finally settled in London in 1774. The artist has dressed the young man in a costume dating from about 140 years before the portrait was painted. This type of costume was familiar through the portraits of the great Flemish painter, Anthony van Dyck (1559-1641), who was resident in England during the early 17th century. Gainsborough greatly admired the work of Van Dyck and seems to have conceived The Blue Boy as an act of homage to that master. Mr. Huntington purchased the painting along with Gainsborough's The Cottage Door and Reynolds's Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse from the Duke of Westminster.

Pinkie, facing The Blue Boy in the Main Gallery of the museum and often paired with it in popular esteem, is by Thomas Lawrence, one of the great portrait painters of his generation. It was painted about 25 years after Gainsborough's masterpiece and had no association with that work until they both were displayed in the Huntington in the late 1920s. Executed when the artist was only 25 and shortly after his election to the Royal Academy, Pinkie is an extraordinarily fresh and lively performance with the sitter standing on a hill, her dress blown by the wind. The movement of her dress in conjunction with her frank gaze gives a sense of immediacy to the composition and expresses the animation of the sitter. The young girl was the daughter of a wealthy plantation family in Jamaica, who came to England for her education. Called "Pinkie" by her grandmother who commissioned the portrait, she was only eleven when her likeness was taken. Sadly, Sarah died within a few months of the portrait's completion, probably of tuberculosis. Her younger brother Edward was the father of the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Pinkie was the last painting purchased by Mr. Huntington, who did not live to see it installed in the house.

Pictures and Information: Huntington Gallery


Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

some ver interesting facts esp. about pinkie being EB Brownings aunt! Nice to read some good old art culture posts.

Destitute Rebel said...

yup, I never knew these things all my life and suddenly when I looked for information it all came pouring in.

BuJ said...

very beautiful pieces.. lucky to have them by a family that appreciates art :)