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Friday, April 15, 2011

"Pinkie" & "The Blue Boy" - Behind the Story

"The Blue Boy"
These two portraits are familiar to even the most casual art appreciator.  We're used to seeing them displayed together, but they were painted by two different artists and were not originally intended to be shown as a pair.

"Pinkie" was the family nickname of Sarah Barrett Moulton.  Her portrait was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1794, when she was about 11 years old.  She was born in Jamaica to wealthy English plantation owners and died about a year after the portrait was completed.  Her brother, Edward, later changed his surname to Moulton-Barrett, and fathered the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

"The Blue Boy",  thought to be a portrait of Jonathan Buttall, the son of a wealthy English hardware merchant, was painted by Thomas Gainsborough around 1770, in clothing from an earlier period in tribute to artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641). [Click on a photo for a closer look.]

In 1921, American railroad pioneer Henry Edwards Huntington purchased both paintings, to great British consternation, I might add.  He displayed the two full length portraits side by side, and they have been shown that way ever since.

The Huntington Art Museum, Library & Botanical Gardens is well worth visiting if you ever find yourself in the Pasadena, CA area.  One of my fondest memories is having my son & his wife take me there when they lived in the area.  If you have an opportunity to see "Pinkie" and "The Blue Boy", I hope you'll be able to appreciate them more now that you've heard a little bit about their background.  You may visit the Huntington online here.   Brew a cup of tea, put on a classical CD and enjoy perusing the collection online.  And remember ... there's a story behind every painting!


BethsMomToo said...

Let me add that the Huntington has one of the BEST book/gift shops I've ever seen at a museum! It has even won awards! When we traveled in England & France [with the exception of the shop at the Tower of London] I found myself disappointed with the museum gift shops. I kept imagining how they could increase business and offer so much more, expanding visitors' knowledge of what they had just viewed. I realized how much I had inadvertently learned from visiting the shops connected to US museums. Colin suggested I become a "consultant" to European museums to help them beef up their shops. Now THERE'S a dream job for me!! It would require multiple trips abroad & opportunities to visit myriad museums, as well as promote learning... sigh...what bliss!

Unknown said...

I grew up seeing the two together-- on the wall of my elementary school in the early '60s. They reappeared on the wall of my junior high, in a completely different town and school district.

BethsMomToo said...

My earliest exposure to art was those less than stellar prints of famous paintings you used to see everywhere. Looking back, I can see it helped launch my interest in art history. But when you get to see the "real thing", it takes your breathe away! Even the best art books never get the color exactly right & hide the textures & reflections. I remember seeing a John Singer Sargent portrait of his niece ["Repose"] at the National Gallery of art in DC. I (rather loudly) exclaimed, "It's purple!" I had always thought the highlights in her dress were blue! Other times the sheer size of work can astonish me.

Unknown said...

My mom oil painted copies of these great paintings I am getting both from the estate they made it through hurricane Katrina yah