The National Gallery, London
(25 January – 15 May, 2022)
During the nineteenth century, the painting’s fame grew and full-length portraits by Gainsborough and his contemporaries became much sought after by wealthy American collectors. American buying power from the 1880s onwards was mirrored by the comparative economic decline of the British aristocracy. The sale of The Blue Boy in 1921, to the American railroad magnate and collector Henry E. Huntington, was therefore seen by many as emblematic of this shift in economic and cultural power. Given the proximity to the end of the First World War, the loss of The Blue Boy was unsurprisingly viewed as a national tragedy. However, its afterlife, as a kind of permanent ambassador for British art, has undoubtedly fed into ideas of Britain and Britishness – its history, society, culture and character – that still resonate today.
Christine Riding is The Jacob Rothschild Head of the Curatorial Department and Curator of British Paintings, The National Gallery, London. With Contributions by Susanna Avery-Quash is Senior Research Curator, Curatorial Department, The National Gallery, London and Melinda McCurdy, Imogen Tedbury and Jacqueline Riding
Gainsborough's House is in the heart of Suffolk, in Sudbury, and the birthplace and childhood home of Thomas Gainsborough – one of the great figures of British and World Art history, renowned not only in his advancement of portraiture to a higher level but also in being one of the founders of the British School of landscape painting.
A bricked Georgian Grade-I listed house with an intimate walled garden featuring a 400 year old Mulberry Tree, Gainsborough's House is currently undergoing an exciting new development, Reviving an Artist’s Birthplace. This is a two-year, £10.5m project to refurbish the House and build new galleries behind, to become the National Centre for Gainsborough.
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