The painting had hung at the gallery for three weeks in the winter of 1922 before making its way across the Atlantic Ocean after it was bought by a US collector from the Duke of Westminster.
Thomas Gainsborough's 18th-century painting "The Blue Boy" goes on show at London's National Gallery on January 25, 100 years after it was bought and shipped from Britain to the United States.
The portrait of a young boy dressed in blue is on display as part of an exhibition opening on Tuesday, 100 years to the day after it was last shown publicly in London.
"The Blue Boy is not only one of the most famous pictures by Gainsborough, I think it's one of the most famous pictures in British art altogether,'' the National Gallery's director, Gabriele Finaldi, told Reuters following a photocall with around 40 children dressed in blue.
The painting had hung at the gallery for three weeks in the winter of 1922 before making its way across the Atlantic Ocean after it was bought by US railroad magnate and art collector Henry E. Huntington from the Duke of Westminster.
Van Dyck influence
"It is a remarkably beautiful picture, it's striking, it's moving, it's beautifully painted, it's enormously sort of romantic,'' said Finaldi, explaining that Gainsborough's 1770 work was ''harking back to the sort of glorious painting of Van Dyck (Artist Anthony Van Dyck) over a century before."
In order to show Gainsborough's passion for Van Dyck, 'The Blue Boy' is on display at the National Gallery along with a couple of works by Van Dyck and two other paintings by Gainsborough.
''Van Dyke was very important for the consciousness of the history of Britain, but also a British painting as well. And so he (Gainsborough) dresses this anonymous young man, we're not quite sure who he is - in Van Dyke costume,'' said Finaldi.
The London exhibition marks the first time 'The Blue Boy' has been loaned from the California-based Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.