The Protestant Reformation had been against religious images and the pomp of artistic creation as a form of pride, but the return of the Stuarts to the English throne, along with the growth of the aristocracy, brought back art's importance. The art of this period reflected the social sentiment of national stability and political peace. With all its major upheavals of war and revolution behind it, England could once again focus on the themes of peacetime and educational growth. The overall effect on the art during this time was a more flowery, pleasant style that focused on everyday social affairs instead of historic revolutions and religious wars. Portraits became especially popular, and people invited foreign artists from all across Europe to paint for them. It was during this period that the British art of portraiture was perfected in such artists as Thomas Gainsborough, who painted the famous Blue Boy.
The artist Thomas Gainsborough was admired for his delicate brushwork and rich, glistening pastel colors. Sir Joshua Reynolds, another skilled painter at that time and Gainsborough's rival, stated once in a lecture that the color blue was detractive, and that it should never be used as the primary color in a portrait. Gainsborough took this as a direct challenge and decided to paint a portrait with blue in it. The portrait was of a young man dressed in blue, and its popularity proved Reynolds wrong. However, rather than feel cross at his rival for outperforming him, Reynolds praised Gainsborough's achievement in a subsequent lecture after Gainsborough's death in 1788.