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National Gallery buys Sir Thomas Lawrence’s The Red Boy for close to £10million

National Gallery buys Sir Thomas Lawrences The Red Boy for


Oh, boy! National Gallery buys Sir Thomas Lawrence’s world renowned 1825 masterpiece The Red Boy for close to £10million

It’s been dividing opinion ever since it was first exhibited in 1825.

The poet William Wordsworth described The Red Boy as ‘a wretched histrionic thing’ – and there have been plenty more who have deplored what they saw as the painting’s sentimentality.

But to others Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait is a masterpiece of technique, praised by one 19th century critic as showing ‘the sparkling intelligence of youth’.

Soon visitors to the National Gallery will be able to make their own minds up about a work that been featured on countless boxes of shortbread and toffee.

The poet William Wordsworth described The Red Boy as ‘a wretched histrionic thing’ – and there have been plenty more who have deplored what they saw as the painting’s sentimentality

The poet William Wordsworth described The Red Boy as ‘a wretched histrionic thing’ – and there have been plenty more who have deplored what they saw as the painting’s sentimentality

It has been acquired by the gallery for close to £10million. Officially titled Portrait of Charles William Lambton, it features a boy, aged six or seven, dressed in a red velvet suit and seated on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea at night.

The painting – which in 1967 became the first to be included on a British postage stamp – will go on display early next year. 

It was offered from a private collection via Christie’s, at a ‘special price’ of £9.3million. Art Fund, a charity which raises funds to help buy works for the nation, supported the acquisition with a grant of £300,000.

Soon visitors to the National Gallery (above) will be able to make their own minds up about a work that been featured on countless boxes of shortbread and toffee

Soon visitors to the National Gallery (above) will be able to make their own minds up about a work that been featured on countless boxes of shortbread and toffee

Funding also came from the American Friends of the National Gallery, from individuals and charitable trusts, grants, and legacies. 

Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, said the work is ‘an outstanding and tender portrait by one of Britain’s most distinguished painters at the height of his powers’ while Christine Riding, who is Jacob Rothschild head of the curatorial department at the National Gallery, said the acquisition was a ‘dream come true for everyone who loves British art’.

Gallery director Dr Gabriele Finaldi said the painting was ‘a tour de force of technical brilliance and… a moving representation of a young boy becoming self-aware’.

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