See ‘A Portrait of a Young Gentleman' at The Huntington

The new painting from acclaimed artist Kehinde Wiley, a reimagining of "The Blue Boy," is on view at the San Marino landmark for a limited time.

Joshua White/The Huntington

What to Know

  • Kehinde Wiley's work, commissioned by The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, is on view through Jan. 3, 2022
  • The cultural destination commissioned the LA artist to create the painting, a contemporary reflection on Thomas Gainsborough's "The Blue Boy"
  • Reservations are required at The Huntington on weekends and holidays


At the first glance, the universe of visual creation might seem to be a somewhat static plane, a place where works remain frozen in the time they were made, meaning our initial ideas and early reactions also remain unmoved.

That bit of misthink, of course, does not capture the true essence of art at all, either for the artists who boldly build new worlds with brushes and canvases or the admirers who turn to great art for inspiration, fresh ideas, bigger windows on the world, and new routes to connecting with each other.

Artist Kehinde Wiley's "A Portrait of a Young Gentleman," which is now on view The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, is a much-anticipated piece that is inspiring many of those new connections and wide-open windows.

Created as a rethinking of Thomas Gainsborough's "The Blue Boy" in "a contemporary context," the painting will be on view at the San Marino landmark through Jan. 3, 2022.

Brad Ogbonna

The Huntington commissioned the painting not long after "The Blue Boy," which can be seen opposite "A Portrait of a Young Gentleman," underwent an extensive, multi-year renovation.

"Just as scholars come to The Huntington to study and reinterpret our significant collections, with this commission we are delighted that Kehinde Wiley has reenvisioned our iconic work, 'The Blue Boy,' and Grand Manner portraiture in a powerful way," said Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence.

"Across the breadth of our library, art, and botanical collections, we are inviting perspectives that alter the way we see tradition itself."

The artist, who took classes at The Huntington when he was growing up, visited the many masterpieces displayed in the destination's elegant galleries.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

"The portraits made such an impression on Wiley that he would later incorporate their stylistic representations of wealth, glory, and power into his own artistic practice, focusing on the Black and brown bodies missing from the museums he visited," shared The Huntington.

"I loved The Huntington's galleries; the paintings by Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and John Constable were some of my favorites," Wiley said. "I was taken by their imagery, their sheer spectacle, and, of course, their beauty. When I started painting, I started looking at their technical proficiency — the manipulation of paint, color, and composition."

"These portraits are hyperreal, with the detail on the face finely crafted, and the brushwork, the clothing, and the landscape fluid and playful. Since I felt somewhat removed from the imagery — personally and culturally—I took a scientific approach and had an aesthetic fascination with these paintings.

"That distance gave me a removed freedom. Later, I started thinking about issues of desire, objectification, and fantasy in portraiture and, of course, colonialism."

Mr. Wiley's portrait of President Barack Obama will go on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Resnick Pavilion in November 2021, as part of The Obama Portraits Tour, an event that also features artist Amy Sherald's portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama.

"The Blue Boy" will soon depart The Huntington, at least for a time. It's headed to London's National Gallery, "opening 100 years to the day it departed from England for its new home in California."

You can view "A Portrait of a Young Gentleman" daily, but note that The Huntington requires advance reservations on weekends and holidays. For more on tickets, reservations, and visiting the cultural institution, click.

This commission and its presentation are made possible by an Anonymous Foundation, Anne F. Rothenberg, Terry Perucca and Annette Serrurier, the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, and the WHH Foundation. Additional support is provided by Laura and Carlton Seaver, Kent Belden and Dr. Louis Re, and Faye and Robert Davidson.

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