Gainsborough painting to return to National Gallery after 100 years

A painting by Thomas Gainsborough is to return to the National Gallery 100 years to the day since it was last displayed there.

The Blue Boy, painted in 1770, was last on show at the London gallery on January 25 1922, before being taken to the US.

It was seen by 90,000 visitors during the three weeks it was on display, the National Gallery said.

The Blue Boy, by Thomas Gainsborough, was last on show at the National Gallery in London in January 1922 (National Gallery/PA)
The Blue Boy, by Thomas Gainsborough, was last on show at the National Gallery in London in January 1922 (National Gallery/PA)

Before it left, former gallery director Charles Holmes wrote “Au revoir” on the back of the painting in the hope it would one day return, according to a statement.

The painting shows a young man posing in a blue outfit.

It is being loaned to the gallery by Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, where it has been on display for the last century.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, said: “The loan of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy to the National Gallery is truly exceptional and a unique opportunity for visitors to see Gainsborough at his dazzling best.

The Blue Boy was seen by 90,000 visitors in the three weeks it was on display at the National Gallery in 1922 (National Gallery/PA)
The Blue Boy was seen by 90,000 visitors in the three weeks it was on display at the National Gallery in 1922 (National Gallery/PA)

“Rich in historical resonances, a painting of supreme poise and elegance, The Blue Boy is without doubt a masterpiece of British art.”

This is the first time the painting has been loaned.

Huntington president Karen R Lawrence said: “This masterpiece has made an indelible mark on both art history and popular culture, capturing the imaginations of a wide range of audiences.

“Given The Blue Boy’s iconic status at the Huntington, this is an unprecedented loan, one which we considered very carefully.

“We hope that this partnership with the National Gallery will spark new conversations, appreciation, and research on both sides of the Atlantic.”

– Visitors will be able to see the painting free of charge from January 25 2022.