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National Gallery to buy Thomas Lawrence’s ‘Red Boy’ for £9.3m | National Gallery


To some it’s the epitome of ghastly chocolate-box sentimentality, described by Wordsworth as “a wretched histrionic thing”. To others it’s a dazzling tour de power, praised by one critic as exhibiting “the sparkling intelligence of youth”.

Members of the general public will quickly have the option to be a part of the talk because the National Gallery on Thursday introduced it was shopping for the work in query for the nation: Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of Charles William Lambton (1818-31), popularly often known as the “Red Boy”.

The portray has been dividing opinion because it was first exhibited on the Royal Academy in 1825. It is nauseating or it’s great. Whatever your opinion, it’s undeniably well-known, reproduced on numerous toffee and shortbread tins and changing into, in 1967, the primary portray ever to be placed on a British postage stamp.

It has been supplied to the National Gallery from a personal assortment for £9.3m. The funding is coming from the American Friends of the National Gallery plus different bequests and donations. The Art Fund is contributing £300,000.

The gallery mentioned it was a singular alternative “to acquire an exceptionally important painting by one of the finest European portraitists of the early 19th century, which is of outstanding significance for British national heritage”.

Gabriele Finaldi, the director of the National Gallery, mentioned the work was “a tour de force of technical brilliance and at the same time a moving representation of a young boy becoming self-aware”.

He mentioned he was assured “this dazzling portrait” will turn out to be “a much-admired painting for all our visitors”.

Perhaps not all of them. Lawrence has at all times had his detractors. After seeing the Red Boy the poet Wordsworth mentioned: “Lawrence’s portrait of young Lambton is a wretched histrionic thing; the public taste must be vitiated indeed, if that is admired.” A author for the Times disagreed, remarking on the “sparkling intelligence of youth”.

Recent critiques have been biting. When it was displayed at a Lawrence exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, the Daily Telegraph’s Richard Dorment mentioned the boy regarded like “a Mack Sennett bathing beauty”, including, for the avoidance of doubt: “Lawrence must be the worst painter of children in the history of art.”

The Observer’s Laura Cumming was of the same opinion: “Lawrence painted children the way Disney does deer, nauseatingly cute.”

The portrait of the six- or seven-year-old boy in his crimson velvet playsuit was commissioned by the boy’s father, John George Lambton, who turned the primary Earl of Durham in 1833.

The gallery mentioned it might pay in instalments and totally personal the portray by the top of the 12 months. It will go on show, after conservation, in early 2022.

Christine Riding, the head of the curatorial division, mentioned the acquisition was “a dream come true for everyone who loves British art.

“Its presence at the National Gallery will allow us to show the intimate relationship between Lawrence, Gainsborough, Constable and many other European artists and paintings in the nation’s collection at Trafalgar Square.”

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