Kate Middleton’s Artist Defends Criticized Portrait

Kate Middleton's official portrait artist, Paul Emsley, has spoken up for his panned painting — and he has no regrets.

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Andrew Winning / Reuters

Glasgow-born artist Paul Emsley poses next to hisoil painting of Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the first commisioned portrait of her, at the National Portrait Gallery in central London, January 11, 2013.

He’s back. Kate Middleton’s official portrait artist, Paul Emsley, has spoken up for his panned painting — and he has no regrets.

“I wanted to do something that would convey her true self, her natural self as she, herself, wanted,” the 65-year-old Emsley told the Washington Post. “Something that conveys something of her sense of warmth.”

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As for the negative feedback he’s received over the past few weeks, Emsley conceded that “critics have a job to do”

“I understand that. It’s not just to criticize. They’re trying to interpret art for the public. That’s fine. I understand why they do it, but I’m not particularly interested. I honestly wouldn’t really take their opinions too seriously.”

Emsley explained to the Post that he has sought solace in the experiences of another artist, Pietro Annigoni, whose portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in 1969 was widely slammed upon its unveiling. But Annigoni’s work has since been reappraised by critics and even won a spot in a recent National Portrait Gallery retrospective.

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On the subject of working with the Duchess of Cambridge, Emsley “found her to be remarkable,” noting that the 31-year-old Middleton “really does have a genuine, spontaneous warmth about her … She was interested and had interesting things to say… She is someone who makes you feel very relaxed.”

And it turns out that Emsley has an alternative to the official portrait — a black-and-white version that hangs on his studio wall, and in which according to the Post, Duchess Kate “appears bright-eyed and young, refreshed, even playful.” However, Emsley wouldn’t allow it to be photographed. He wants his original work to be the one remembered for posterity. “People will become acclimatized over time to something which is not something that they were expecting,” he said.

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