Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Colored Boys

Figure 1.--The Blue Boy painting by Gainsborourgh in 1779 is one of the most instantly recognizable portraits in the history of art. While painted in the 18th Century, it portrays a Cavalier boy in 17th Century dress.

Some of his children's portraits are highly regarded. Two his most famous portraits are the 'Blue Boy' (1779) and 'Pink Boy' (1770s). The boys, one a relative of Gainsbourough, were painted in elaborate satin and lace costumes of the 17th century. His early works show the influence of French engraving and of Dutch landscape painting At Bath his change of portrait style owed much to a close study of vanDyck. His admiration is most clear in The Blue Boy. Not to be out done by Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Rynolds also did a colored boy--'Brown Boy' hich although largely unknown may actually be a superior work of art.

Blue Boy (1779)

The Gainsborough painting, "The Blue Boy", portrays Jonathan Buttall, the son of a close friend of the artis who owned an ironmongery in Soho, London. The work was executed about 1770 during Gainsborough's extended stay in Bath before he finally settled in London (1774). The artist has dressed the young man in a Cavalier costume from the 17th centuury. His outfit is complete with a VanDyke collar.

Pink Boy (1770s)

The boy was Master Nichols. The painting be seen at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire (England). Details on the painting of "Blue Boy" are well known. HBC has been unable to find out much about "Pink Boy". Also unclear is to the extentpink was popular in either the period depicted or the period in which Gainsborough painted it.

Brown Boy

A HBC reader suggests, "HBC ought to have a copy of Reynold's 'Brown Boy', in the collection at the Bradford Art Gallery, Yorkshire. It's one of my favourites." HBC does not yet, however have details on this Reynold's masterpiece.


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Created: December 3, 2001
Last updated: 10:09 PM 7/30/2010