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Art’s iconic ‘Blue Boy’ gets major 250th birthday makeover

SAN MARINO, Calif. (AP) – “Blue Boy” is getting a long-awaited makeover, and the public will be able to watch as one of the world’s most iconic paintings receives a nip here, a tuck there and some splashes of fresh paint (blue presumably).

Beginning Saturday, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, can see conservator Christina O’Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough’s priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue.

Equipped with a powerful microscope and paints created to match what Gainsborough used, O’Connell hopes to have the work restored to its original grandeur by next year.

In this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, photo The Huntington’s senior paintings conservator, Christina O’Connell, examines “The Blue Boy” painting, made around 1770 by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), through a Haag-Streit surgical microscope at “Project Blue Boy” exhibit in the Thornton Portrait Gallery at The Huntington in San Marino, Calif. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens can see conservator Christina O’Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough’s priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

This marks the painting’s first major conservation since railroad magnate Henry Huntington acquired it in 1921 for a then-record $728,000.

It was first displayed to acclaim at Britain’s Royal Academy in 1770.

In this undated photo released by the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens shows an oil on canvas painting titled "The Blue Boy" (ca. 1770), by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., can see conservator Christina O'Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough's priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP)

In this undated photo released by the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens shows an oil on canvas painting titled “The Blue Boy” (ca. 1770), by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., can see conservator Christina O’Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough’s priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP)

In this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, photo Christina O'Connell shows a x-ray display of the "The Blue Boy" painting, made around 1770 by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), on display at the "Project Blue Boy" exhibit in the Thornton Portrait Gallery at The Huntington in San Marino, Calif.   Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens can see conservator Christina O'Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough's priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, photo Christina O’Connell shows a x-ray display of the “The Blue Boy” painting, made around 1770 by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), on display at the “Project Blue Boy” exhibit in the Thornton Portrait Gallery at The Huntington in San Marino, Calif. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens can see conservator Christina O’Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough’s priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, photo The Huntington's senior paintings conservator, Christina O'Connell, right, examines "The Blue Boy" painting, made around 1770 by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), through a Haag-Streit surgical microscope at "Project Blue Boy" exhibit in the Thornton Portrait Gallery at The Huntington in San Marino, Calif. At left, is Melinda McCurdy, Associate Curator, British Art. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, photo The Huntington’s senior paintings conservator, Christina O’Connell, right, examines “The Blue Boy” painting, made around 1770 by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), through a Haag-Streit surgical microscope at “Project Blue Boy” exhibit in the Thornton Portrait Gallery at The Huntington in San Marino, Calif. At left, is Melinda McCurdy, Associate Curator, British Art. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In this undated photo released by the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens shows an oil on canvas painting titled "The Blue Boy," (ca. 1770) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). The digital x-radiography shows a dog previously revealed in a 1994 x-ray. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., can see conservator Christina O'Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough's priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP)

In this undated photo released by the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens shows an oil on canvas painting titled “The Blue Boy,” (ca. 1770) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). The digital x-radiography shows a dog previously revealed in a 1994 x-ray. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., can see conservator Christina O’Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough’s priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP)

In this Aug. 31, 2017, photo released by the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, Senior Paintings Conservator, Christina O'Connell, wears a magnifying optivisor, as she uses a small light, held at a low angle, to illuminate the surface texture of the portrait of "The Blue Boy" during a three-month conservation study at the conservation lab at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., can see conservator Christina O'Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough's priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP)

In this Aug. 31, 2017, photo released by the The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, Senior Paintings Conservator, Christina O’Connell, wears a magnifying optivisor, as she uses a small light, held at a low angle, to illuminate the surface texture of the portrait of “The Blue Boy” during a three-month conservation study at the conservation lab at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, visitors to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., can see conservator Christina O’Connell repair Thomas Gainsborough’s priceless portrait of a boy dressed all in blue. (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP)

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