'Rotten' Kate Middleton portrait like 'something out of Twilight'
Duchess of Cambridge calls painting by Paul Emsley 'brilliant' - sadly, no-one else seems to agree
THE FIRST official portrait of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery - and to say that it has been given a mixed reception would be generous.
The painting, by artist Paul Emsley (pictured above), did get the royal seal of approval at a private viewing on Friday, but that was as far as the praise went. "It's just amazing, I thought it was brilliant," said the pregnant Duchess, while her husband Prince William described the portrait as "absolutely beautiful".
On Twitter the reviews were rather more unforgiving. "She looks ten years older. I'd be appalled, myself," said The Times' art critic Nancy Durrant while Zoe Williams of The Guardian wrote that it was the first time she had ever felt admiration for the Duchesss. "She's pretending to like this portrait," she marvelled.
Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal and Daily Mail art critic, told the paper: "Fortunately, the Duchess of Cambridge looks nothing like this in real life. I'm really sad to say this is a rotten portrait."
The Mail weighed with its own assessment: "At first glance the Duchess, who celebrated her 31st birthday this week, looks far older than her years," it declared. "There are shadows and creases under her eyes while her famous brunette locks have a strangely coppery tinge to them. Her mouth is set in a grimace rather than the promised enigmatic smile."
The Guardian initially tried to be more diplomatic. "The new portrait is not grovellingly flattering," it noted. "The scale is so large that viewers won't have to peer very closely to see faint dark shadows under the eyes unmasked by Touche Eclat, and the first hint of fine lines."
But the paper's chief arts writer Charlotte Higgins was not pussyfooting around. She said the Duchess had "been transformed into something unpleasant from the Twilight franchise".
The Daily Telegraph tried to take it up with the artist, but to no avail. "He refused to comment on whether the Duchess was upset that she has bags under her eyes in the painting," it reported.
The oil painting took three-and-a-half months to complete. The Duchess attended sittings in 2012 at Emsley's studio in the West Country and at Kensington Palace. The artist also used photographs for reference.
Emsley said he wanted to make a feature of her hair and admitted that he had slightly changed the colour of the Duchess's eyes to fit in with the rest of the background. The 65-year-old Scottish-born artist also revealed that he had not initially planned to paint Kate smiling.
"The fact she is a beautiful woman is for an artist difficult, " he added. "In the end I think what I tried to do really was to convey something about her warmth and her smile. Any artist will tell you doing a smiling portrait is not at all easy so that was difficult.
"You always see the [problems]," he said. "You're always unhappy with what you do... but it has seemed today that everyone likes it."
He may want to avoid the internet.