January 16, 2014

Blue Boy

For our 15th anniversary a couple of summers ago, Mitch & I squeezed in a short trip to the Apostle Islands area.  Being fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants travelers, we usually stop where it suits or interests us along our route.  We had only intended to stop for lunch in Bayfield, but were smitten enough to stay.  We found vacancy at a place a couple of miles south of town on Lake Superior.  They put us in the Wheel House Suite, and we liked it so much, we went no further. 
We gobbled up the many charms around Bayfield, architecture, orchards & berry farms, the beautiful Apostle Islands National Lakeshore & an island cruise
But one small detail that stuck with us from the trip was a portrait of a boy in the bathroom of our suite.  There was also a portrait of a girl who appeared to be floating. 
The Bayfield area is notorious for it's "haunted" history (we didn't know this until we ended up there.)  Their historical society offers ghost tours, and we were told upon checking in that our room was one of the haunted ones, but they were friendly ghosts, not to worry.  
So, for whatever reason, we thought these small, staring portraits in the washroom were quirky & comical. (We are not superstitious, for the record.)

Then, browsing Bayfield shops, we saw the staring eyes of the boy again, not once, but twice.  Enough to pique my curiosity to find out who he was.  I assumed maybe he was special to that area, a boy from a shipwreck or something. 
After the right combination of key words, my google search revealed "Blue Boy"  and "Pinkie."
The Blue Boy is a portrait by Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1770).  Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence.  They are both part of a permanent collection of the Huntington Library at San Marino, California where they hang opposite each other.  These two works are the centerpieces of the institute's art collection, which specializes in 18th-century English portraiture.
I had never remembered seeing them before ever, but since our anniversary introduction to these characters, they just keep popping up!  
It quickly grew amusing, and I thought to start taking pictures of each Blue Boy sighting.  I have a whole pile of Blue Boy pictures on my phone.

Just a couple of weeks after our anniversary, who should appear at eye level at my favorite thrift shop, but Blue Boy.  I was having a particularly bad day, and he made me laugh. 
(Why I didn't think to buy him in this cute frame, I don't know.  I kick myself.)

Out with my mom on her birthday,
here were Blue Boy & Pinkie again. 
Down low...

And way up high..

Then there were Blue Boy & Pinky in matching sets.
(My phone isn't special, sorry for the poor quality.)

I wish I'd thought to buy them all  - we could have a whole wall collection of Blue Boy!
It wasn't until I was shopping for the holidays last month & I came face to face with Blue Boy, that I laughed again and, without hesitation, bought it (for $1.99.)  I wrapped it for Mitch for Christmas with a little note on the back. 
I plan to hang him in our new master bathroom when it's complete, just like the Blue Boy in the bathroom of our 15th anniversary suite the first time we saw him.

As Blue Boy has continued to appear in our life, I've wondered:  Is he that common?  Like American Gothic? or kitschy like those dogs playing pool?  Were we out of the loop before?  
Common or not, it's been a funny coincidence running into him so much.  We get a kick out of it.

I can't wait to finish that bathroom where he can hang like he did
in the anniversary suite.
For now, I move him around the house every few days & smile as his eyes follow us.

I'm curious - do you have a Blue Boy story?     


  1. No Blue Boy stories here. I recognize that I've seen the picture before, but without any significance I don't remember where. Now if I begin to have him show up all over the place, I'm blaming YOU! :-)

    1. I hope you have a good chuckle if (when) you see him! ☺

  2. My mom has Pinky on a small dessert plate that hangs in her dining room :)

  3. i was familiar with blue boy as a classic painting. i was not familiar with pinky, however. i think it's neat that you finally bought one. :)

  4. I don't have a Blue Boy story, but I certainly enjoyed your story. I'm glad you will be able to hang him pretty much like where you first saw him. I've heard of and have seen Blue Boy, but Pinkie is new to me.

  5. My grandmother has a Blue Boy picture. I think he is fairly common as I have seen him in various antique shops through the years.

  6. I recognize the painting but never knew the name and can't say I've seen it lots of places. Now I probably will.

  7. I've never actually seen a Blue Boy or heard of them before! But it's really fascinating. It's cool the connection you guys have to it and the memories it can bring back. I think you'll have to start a collection now!

    And I do love that shot that you posted on your FB page. The open shelving, concrete countertops, hanging pots, milk glass all speak to me! And the glass jars as well. Love this style :)

  8. Amanda, I'm certainly glad that you sprang $1.99 for Blue Boy. He's obviously been wanting to come home to your house. You and your husband will smile and remember the first time you met him whenever you see the picture. (I've never made his acquaintance before!)

  9. Lovely story about the blue boy!!And I like the warmth of your kitchen…absolute perfect!

  10. I really enjoyed your story of Little Boy Blue. I have never really notice Boy Blue before. I wonder if I will notice him now that I heard this story. I go to thrift shops and antique shops quite often, So it will be fun to see if I notice him anywhere.


  11. My mom has always loved Blue Boy and Pinkie. They have large framed portraits in their master suite and several smaller pieces in the rest of the house.