June 22, 2024



2 portraits of young men face off — and show a story about race in the history of art


Updated October 28, 20213:31 PM ET


There’s a face-off at the Huntington Museum of Art near Los Angeles. The contenders are Thomas Gainsborough’s 18th-century painting Blue Boy and Kehinde Wiley’s very 21st-century Portrait of a Young Gentleman. The two young men are sportily dressed and look directly at visitors; they even stand the same way. But there is one major difference.

They remind me of trading cards. Today’s cards show baseball and football heroes. In my day we traded pictures of artworks. The most coveted card was “Blue Boy.” A really cute fellow a bit older than we were — with a spiffy blue satiny suit, blue bows on his silky brown shoes, and a big hat with a flowing feather on it. Adorable!

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