Kate Middleton’s First Official Painting Unveiled. What Do You Think?

Initial reaction has not been kind.

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After keeping a low profile since news of her pregnancy reverberated around the world, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton emerged — along with her husband Prince William and several family members — for an early morning outing Friday to London’s National Portrait Gallery.

The reason: to witness the unveiling of her first official portrait, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, by the Glasgow-born, South African-raised artist Paul Emsley. “I thought it was brilliant,” Duchess Kate said of the artwork. But she may be in the minority.

middleton_full_0111
National Portrait Gallery / Handout / Reuters

“HRH The Duchess of Cambridge” by Glasgow-born artist Paul Emsley, is seen in the National Portrait Gallery in London January 11, 2013.

(PHOTOS: Kate Middleton’s Amazing Fashion Evolution)

The Times of London’s art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, called Emsley’s work “pretty ordinary … He made her look older than she is and her eyes don’t sparkle in the way that they do and there’s something rather dour about the face.” Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal and critic for the Daily Mail, was similarly unimpressed: “Fortunately, the Duchess of Cambridge looks nothing like this in real life. I’m really sad to say this is a rotten portrait.” And David Lee, former editor of Art Review magazine and founder of satirical art magazine The Jackdaw, went for the jugular:

This is the most bland and predictable royal portrait in living memory. It is the sort of safe, uncomplicated, pedestrian image one might expect to see in a High Street photographer’s window. It looks as if the painter asked the subject to ‘Say cheese!’ and then told her to scram and buy some clothes while he painted the photograph.

Emsley worked on the painting for several months, using his technique of building thin layers of oil and glazes on canvas — although given that response, he may be wishing he’d done something else. Still, he managed to get Middleton to sit for him twice (Emsley also used some photographs he took of the Duchess as part of the process). “If you are working with someone who has whose face is just a lovely face, it’s harder to find something in the portrait that gives it some sort of gravitas,” he told TIME’s sister publication, People. “In this case I’ve tried to do that with the smile and the dimples and the shadows around the face.”

The Duchess, who studied art history at St. Andrews University, was directly involved in the selection of Emsley, along with the National Portrait Gallery’s director, Sandy Nairne. Emsley’s other subjects have included the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and the author V. S. Naipaul. Back in 2007 he even won the BP Portrait Award for his depiction of fellow artist Michael Simpson. Judging by the reaction so far, however, he may not be winning anything for this latest work.

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167 comments
peppercorns
peppercorns

She is a beautiful girl and this portrait make her look like and old hag. Nothing elegant or graceful at all.  ick!

OxfordP
OxfordP

I've pinpointed the problem here...her eyes are too small! It makes her look less feminine. How unfortunate. She's a beautiful girl!!

Ixchella
Ixchella

Good GOD... Why would someone DO that to her? She looks positively grotesque! It is barely recognizable. Let me guess...the artiste' is some self-styled "noble" who fancies himself of higher lineage than a "merchant's daughter" so painted the most unflattering image possible? It should be BURNED and the artist WITH IT!

VinceBarnett
VinceBarnett

He missed it!.........the ashen overtones are horrible and she is much more beautiful than he captured.  Ban this one !


mars5555
mars5555

Pursed lips, smirky expression, dead eyes. Really dreadful. The "artist" says he wanted to portray her true self, but I hope to hell the hag-like woman in the picture is not Kate's true self.

dgdoesstuff
dgdoesstuff

It looks like an eerie pic from Deviant Art. 

zionink
zionink

The portrait makes her look like an old hag,the right eye looks a slight bigger than the left. This artist is no Da Vinci.....

wimtenholder
wimtenholder

Excellent craftsmanship by Paul Emsley and the artist must have thought of da Vinci's world famous "SMILE." He should be forgiven for the "I am really bored silly with sittings" expression that Her Royal Highness found hard to suppress. 

Holly
Holly

As an admirer of The Duchess, I did not care for the portrait at first glance. I found the harsh lighting and perhaps mischievous facial expression to be shocking. But, the more I looked at the portrait, the more appealing it became. I can now appreciate how unexpected the portrait is and believe the emotion evoked by this painting is of significance. I can see a sparkle in her eye, a determination, and strength. I respect the nuances of her facial expression and how the soft shadows reveal unrivaled beauty and yet the subtle imperfections that make all of us human. Although there will be many more official portraits of Katherine to follow, likely showing her unmistakable beauty in a more traditional sense, It is the enigmatic portrait, such as this, that will remain relevant for centuries to come. 

DoraValencia
DoraValencia

I saw better portraits of her from the street artist in the Montmartre, I believe the monarchy should absolve this tradition and stick to the amazing photographs of this beautiful woman

jefflevin100
jefflevin100

NOT A PORTRAIT! A HORRIBLE DISTORTION OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN! This "Artist" needs an Eye Examination and should take a class in "Painting 101." This painting makes Kate Middleton, a smiling and beautiful young woman look like a "dull faced and plain older lady." SUGGESTION: DO NOT ALLOW THIS PAINTING TO BE DECLARED THE OFFICIAL PORTRAIT.  KATE DESERVES A FAR MORE REALISTIC PORTRAIT FOR HER BEAUTY AND FOR POSTERITY.

ElizabethJenkinsKuhn
ElizabethJenkinsKuhn

How horrible! Look at the bags under her eyes! Her complexion is blotchy, her eyes and hair are dull. There is no way I would have paid for it! Her smile is nice, but he could have lightened up her face like it usually does when she smiles. This is a terrible painting for a "Royal"! Give it back Kate, demand a redo!

Photonicat
Photonicat

It's a terrible portrait - she's a lot more beautiful than this! The whole feeling of the painting is awful!

lalor
lalor

I think this is a lovely painting of Kate Middleton. It is exactly like her. It makes her look timeless so that you can not tell what age she is. Her smile like that of "Mona Lisa" is mysterious and enigmatic, The painting is slightly blurred ,again adding to the effect of mystery. I feel she must be very pleased with it. People are so unrealistic in their expectations of artists.One wonders what are they looking for.

PatElgee
PatElgee

The colors are cool, the style is formal, slightly modified with the smile.  While I would have prefered more vibrant colors, I imagine that this one may stand out as wild and vibrant in the royal portrait gallery.  Perhaps this is as wild as she dared to be.  I would so love to do one, myself.  Kate is a lovely young woman.

AlbertoGuerra
AlbertoGuerra

Como é possível  transformar uma cara linda, numa bruxa? ...  Grande artista !!!!!!!!!!!

AJorge

Snowgoose
Snowgoose

It is awful, to say the least.  Those black circles around her eyes and puffy cheeks.  What was he seeing?  Shame on him.

elofson
elofson

It's kitsch, pure and simple!

TemenouzhkaZaharieva
TemenouzhkaZaharieva

If it is true that photos and prtraits usually give some idea about our hidden inner self, this is quite unflattering portrait, having nothing to do with her popular image. I wonder how could she approve such a work.

pinokeeo
pinokeeo

I want a redo.This picture is the worst I have seen.

Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

Ugliest among royal portraits. Sack (fire) the painter!

khmnadmin@gmail.com
khmnadmin@gmail.com

I think the painting has no tone, depth or texture to it.  I hate it.    I can't even keep my eyes in focus when I look at it.   Find a new artist for portraits I say. 

GlenDeGelnor
GlenDeGelnor

I could use this to keep rodents out of my garden.

syzygysb
syzygysb

My first reaction:  GAH!  After my second and more lingering look:  What the HELL?  Poor Kate.  I hope she doesn't think she looks like this.  Emsley made her look like Snow White's wicked stepmother.  Or Bride of Chucky.   Mean and soul-less and plotting revenge.  Look at those eyes.  Nightmarish.  Also:  since when is she 50 years old,  with a bad face-lift?  Honestly.  

But not a completely botched effort.  I think Emsley got the hair and eyebrows right.  Throw this one into the tip. 

rpagan
rpagan

She's a lovely woman and this does definitely not do her justice.  First of all the pose - looking straight into the face of the viewer is never flattering - and the colors are so muted.  The Duchess has such life and charm - this is such a disappointment.

shoshana7
shoshana7

I do not like the picture at all!  It isn't her.  Maybe in 20 years or so!  I can't bear to look at it.

DanielDubuc
DanielDubuc

For the painting, the talent is remarkable. 

But no so for the expression chosen. Kate seems to be holding or in a change of expression. 

A photographer would say: "The previous or the next picture could have been fine!..."

dreainquestion
dreainquestion

Horrid. It does no justice to the Duchess and her bright, inviting personality, or her easy good looks.

gracechiou88
gracechiou88

Paul Emsley's latest art piece, Duchess of Cambridge, does look like a bland photograph.  He could've chosen a different color of attire or painted a Burberry scarf for the Duchess.

TerriGold
TerriGold

i think it's awful. If the color representation on-line is anything like how it really looks, it's grey. It looks like a bad passport photo because of the composition. Who paints a portrait of a gorgeous woman looking straight on? I can't understand why they would even approve this portrait.

AB55
AB55

If you are doing a portroit of someone you do not change the color of her eyes or anything about them. Kate is a beautiful woman and this painting does not show her to be that. The eyes the mouth and cheeks are just not her even her color, she is normally a bright cheery person why not show her to be just that??

I don't think she is totally happy with this pic, I am surprised if she is.

chrislford
chrislford

The painting is recognisable immediately as Kate, but on slightly longer inspection there is a seriousness that one doesn't normally see in news pictures of her, and yes, the painting does make her look somewhat older than she is.  Having said which, the painter is entitled to his own interpretation of his subject, and this is what art is all about !  There will always be others who criticize the artist's efforts, this is normal, but there does seem to be a high proportion of comments that are negative.  Who knows, perhaps in 10 or 20 years' time, we will look back at this picture and see it as an augury of what Kate has then become, and congratulate the artist on his foresight ! 

AB55
AB55

The portrait is terrible, Kate is a much more beautiful than the portrait painted of her. The face is not her, she is always smiling, her eyes are always much brighter and cheerful, this portrait makes her look older and sad and very sturn.

If I were Kate I would not hang this picture up. She is so much more beautiful than this portait does not portray her at all or her personality. Is this really what the painter see's when looking at her ?? Really ??

Kate & William should demand a do-over.

gafreisberg
gafreisberg

"People in glass houses.......etc"

The painting IS Kate Middleton. If you don't like the way she looks, fine. You are entitled to your opinion. 

The artist is being criticized for many things, including creating a work that looks like a photo .... well, if it's a "photo" then obviously he has captured his subject. 

The art world is awash with "personalities" (exhibitionists). Paul Emsley isn't one of them. He is a quiet, serious gentleman. The couple chose him (after being given a choice !) so obviously they like his work.

Criticism is something he has experienced before (criticism was scathing when the BP AWARD was announced) and no doubt he will continue to be ridiculed by "critics" with plenty to say but with little talent to actually "do".

That terrible old expression "those than can ...do. Those that can't, teach" ..well

"Those that can ... draw. Those that can't "deride" !!

kootenayredneck
kootenayredneck

Better get a better likeness of her before she becomes a queen, that if she ever becomes one because this portrait does’nt cut it since it’s to conservative in nature for how the couple have displayed their personalities to the world.

pumpkin17
pumpkin17

It's telling that the artist worked primarily from photos, and that there were only two actual sittings.  It's via the intimacy of sittings that artist and subject interact, giving the artist a chance to divine personality to convey to the canvas.  Makes me long for John Singer Sargent to live and paint again.   In Sargent's portrait of Lady Agnew he captures essentially the same expression as in the Duchess's portrait, but compare the two, and the life and light of Lady Agnew's face by comparison is astonishing.  It is a living face.  This is too bad, really, the Duchess is a lovely woman in every sense, and none of that loveliness made it onto the canvas.

thefullenglish
thefullenglish

The Portrait: a dull illustrative piece of work …… if I’m going to be picky her nose looks a little puffy ……. A Karl Malden touch I guess.  .......



paperdoves
paperdoves

No. Just no. This is an absolute masterpiece, and I guarantee that 99.9% percent of people who are insulting this piece of art that Mr. Emsley must have spent months creating have no art degree, no artistic talent whatsoever, and no respect. Before you start insulting someone's "lifeless rendition" of Kate Middleton, or accuse it of not being art, please check yourself at the door and make sure you are capable of drawing a stick figure. She likes it, and that's essentially all that matters. So get off your high horses and paint something better. Then you'll have the right to insult any painting you want. Thanks.

ElizabethJenkinsKuhn
ElizabethJenkinsKuhn

@jefflevin100 The "like" buttons are very hard to discern, I pressed like too many times turned into unlike unknowingly. So can understand you mistake. Thanks for your comments. I think the painting is a terrible rendition of HRH and should be banned as was Queen Elizabeth II's painting's was for 60 years ago. Since it's her first painting maybe she feels obligated to "like" it. I don't know.

jefflevin100
jefflevin100

@ElizabethJenkinsKuhn Dear Elizabeth-JenkinsKuhn: Thanks for your "like" comment about my "NOT A PORTRAIT" comment about the horrible portrait of Kate Middleton.  I meant to click the "like" icon under your comment, but unfortunately the computer wrongly turned into into "unlike." So please do not mistake my comment for an "unlike" reply. As any person with eyes and good taste can see this so-called "Portrait" is as I said "A HORRIBLE DISTORTION OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN." LET US HOPE KATE MIDDLETON HAS ANOTHER OFFICIAL PORTRAIT DONE!

syzygysb
syzygysb

@GlenDeGelnor  My garden rodents have done nothing to deserve such punishment. I believe they could paint a better portrait,  if called upon.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@kootenayredneck 

She doesnt become a queen genius-  Her husband becomes the King.


please learn about how the system works... sheesh.

AB55
AB55

I agree w/ pumpkin17

TerriGold
TerriGold

@paperdoves  I have two advanced degrees in art and I can judge very well. The painting says more about the artist's opinion of the subject than it does about the subject herself. Throughout the ages, many painters have expressed contempt towards royals by portraying them in unflattering ways. You need an art education yourself.

ElizabethJenkinsKuhn
ElizabethJenkinsKuhn

@paperdoves You don't HAVE to be an artist to appreciate fine art! Apparently you are the snob! Tell it to all the art lovers around the world who visit the art museums. I can study art and appreciate it without being "good" at it. I do know that a live sitting would have been so much better than looking a "photograph". Maybe looking at the photograph is what resulted in the "dull colors" and bags under eyes, as well as the lifeless color in her countenance overall.

MarcDaneker
MarcDaneker

@paperdoves Only an artist can judge an artist? So art is only for those who can create with equal or finer skill, the rust of us see something ugly and are too ignorant to know it is beautiful? What flawed, failed logic.

He complexion is horrid, he lips appear tight and as if she's trying not to be angry, her entire expression screams constipation or suffering? And this is a masterpiece. It's a portrait of a constipated 45 year old woman.

VeronicaCoulston
VeronicaCoulston

@paperdovesThose who do have an art degree and understand art think this painting is terrible. And what does respect have to do with voicing an opinion? After all the heading is "what do you think?" It does not matter how long the artist has spent creating a piece of art, time itself does not necessarily mean the portrait will be good. If it does not capture the 'essence' of the person then it is not good art. Conversely, a good artist can capture a person and their personality in just 30 minutes of alla prima painting. In fact, the likeness and essence of a person can be captured with just a few lines of a pencil, THAT is real talent. I am not saying Mr. Emsley can't paint, what I am saying though is that this paintings does not capture Kate's cheerful personality and inner glow. It does not even look like her.  As you say though, the client likes it, and that is all that matters.  The painting will be on display at a gallery. Do you expect people will just look at it and not say anything? Art is there to be commented on, whether its complimentary or not......And by the way, just in case you are wondering, I CAN draw a stick figure.

kootenayredneck
kootenayredneck

@Hadrewsky @kootenayredneck Really don’t care how it works. I’m not a Royalist.They should get rid of the Royals altogether since all they are is a drain on the taxpayers and always will be.