Pinkie, facing The Blue Boy in the Thornton Portrait Gallery and often paired with it in popular esteem, is by Thomas Lawrence, one of the great portrait painters of his generation. It was painted about 25 years after Gainsborough’s masterpiece and had no association with that work until they both were displayed in the Huntington in the late 1920s.
Executed when the artist was only 25 and shortly after his election to the Royal Academy, Pinkie is an extraordinarily fresh and lively performance with the sitter standing on a hill, her dress blown by the wind. The movement of her dress in conjunction with her frank gaze gives a sense of immediacy to the composition and expresses the animation of the sitter. The young girl was the daughter of a wealthy plantation family in Jamaica, who came to England for her education. Called “Pinkie” by her grandmother who commissioned the portrait, she was only eleven when her likeness was taken. Sadly, Sarah died within a few months of the portrait’s completion, probably of tuberculosis. Her younger brother Edward was the father of the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Pinkie was the last painting purchased by Mr. Huntington, who did not live to see it installed in the house.