Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy (around 1770) is one of the star attractions at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. Consequently, the painting has rarely gone off display at the museum since its opening in 1928. In August, however, the painting was taken down for a three-month examination ahead of a major two-year technical analysis and conservation treatment. Part of the conservation will take place in one of the museum’s public galleries in a special exhibition called Project Blue Boy, due to open in autumn 2018.
According to Christina O’Connell, the senior paintings conservator at the Huntington, recent treatments have focused on adding layers of varnish so the picture could remain on display. This has obscured some details and caused the colours to “appear hazy and dull”. The forthcoming treatment and examination aims to restore the colours’ vibrancy, address support issues and flaking paint, and hopefully gain insight into the English artist’s process.
The public can follow the project, funded by Bank of America, online at huntington.org/projectblueboy.