Duchess Kate 'thrilled,' but others less kind as official portrait unveiled

Kate portrait

Maybe it's the eyes. Or the slight smirk.

There is definitely something about the official Duchess of Cambridge portrait, unveiled Friday at the National Portrait Gallery, that just doesn't look right.

Maybe the expectations for Paul Emsley's work were a little high, but that made little difference for critics who weighed in.

Kate artistThe Daily Mail art critic called it "rotten."

The Sunday Times art critic said it looked "nothing like Kate in real life."

Some comments from Guardian readers included: "Dear god. They've aged her 20 years"; and "I have to stop looking at it now because it's giving me the major creeps."

Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak complained that the "pretty ordinary" portrait "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."

The Telegraph critic, Mark Hudson, said Emsley "has produced what looks like a piece of mawkish book illustration, a work that could be read as an almost comical pastiche of a certain kind of ‘sensitive’ painting -- that might pass muster on the cover of a Catherine Cookson novel, but will hardly bear sustained scrutiny in a major art gallery."

Kate, though, was apparently "thrilled" with the portrait by the artist that she chose. She posed for the painting in two sittings in May and June.

"It's just amazing, I thought it was brilliant," she said.

Her husband, Prince William, was equally entralled.

"It's beautiful, it's absolutely beautiful," he said.

The artist explained that the because the duchess's image almost iconic, his difficulty was in finding "something which is original."

"The Duchess explained to me that she would like to be portrayed naturally -- her natural self as opposed to her official self," said Emsley. "She struck me as enormously open and generous and a very warm person.

"After initially feeling it was going to be an unsmiling portrait, I think it was the right choice in the end to have her smiling – that is really who she is."

Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Let us know what you think.



Will kate
Prince WIlliam and his wife Catherine speak with British artist Paul Emsley after viewing his portrait of the duchess  at the National Portrait Gallery. (AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the media photograph the newly-commissioned portrait of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, by artist Paul Emsley on display at the National Portrait Gallery. (AP Photo)

Journalists crowd around the first official portrait of Kate after it was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery. (Reuters)


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He added gravitas. That's flattering for a conventionally beautiful woman, and may well reflect her character.

Hello, When can I commission a portait of myself? OH! I forgot! I'm just a mere citizen and taxpayer that foots the bills for deserving royals!!! My mistake.

It's obvious what's missing- a cigarette!

The portrait is okay, but yes, Kate seems to look older, perhaps artificially older in some way. The smirk is annoying in the portrait, as it is in real life, when she is seen with the smirk in footage or by camera. I suspect there a great deal of judgment of others behind that smirk, and not a lot of true empathy. Regrettable, really. I feel sad for Prince William.

I like the portrait. She does look a little older than her years ... or what the public likes to imagine as 'their young princess' ... but I suspect she is a bit more mature than people think. Emsley has captured a character that not many would see - both Kate and he portray a sense of perspective.

To me it's like taking a bad picture of someone that's maybe a bit puffy after a night of eating or drinking and then turning around and making a portrait of them. Not the best choice. Far from it.

the academy of realist art in toronto has students who can do a much better job.

If i was the Queen, i would say do it again.

The artist tried to emulate the presence of the Mona Lisa and ended up creating an akward Charles Schultz.

The portrait is technically ok. However, what strikes me is that Kate is, by all appearances and reports, a very warm, vivacious woman, and that is utterly absent from the portrait. It's rather cold and not very engaging. It's unfortunate. I hope that Kate and William do genuinely like it, and are not just being kind!

Is it painted on black velvet?

My immediate thought was that she looked older.

love the lazy eye look !!

Understand this, I am a amature artist and as such can only give my opinion from an amature point of view. Too heavy on the soft focus look. The pupils and eye highlights - too small. The eye colour wrong as is the size of Kates eyes, (much larger) especially when her face is at rest(unsmiling). The bridge of her nose is too wide. Not clean, fresh, colour(rather looks like the artist has tried to create an archive image). Having said this, I would give both my legs to be able to paint like this truly magnificent artist, well done. I would truly love to be able to email the artist, for his critique, of a painting I did of Kates beautiful late mother in law - Diana

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