Ever since painting began, the work of great masters has been imitated by other painters. Here is my Chinese brush painting of “The Blue Boy,” which is one of the best-loved paintings. The original “The Blue Boy,” oil on canvas, was created by the British artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) about 1770. The sitter is Jonathan Buttall in his teens. It is certainly one of the most memorable of Gainsborough’s achievements. No other painting by a British artist enjoys the popularity of The Blue Boy: “A handsome young man in a handsome Blue Van Dyck.” It was no routine portrait commission, but a picture that the artist painted with special enthusiasm. The artist’s young friend, Jonathan Buttall, modeled the costume. Gainsborough, struck by the model’s appearance, picked up a discarded canvas and tried an essay in the style of Blue Van Dyck. So, the painting was undertaken primarily for the artist’s own satisfaction, not the artist’s normal commissioned portrait. Gainsborough undertook the picture to prove that his great contemporary rival, Sir Joshua Reynolds, was wrong when he stated that a cool color, such as blue should never be the dominant area in a painting. The two masterpieces, Pinkie and The Blue Boy, have resided together in the main gallery of the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California.
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