Smile or grimace? Royal Kate portrait splits opinion

British artist Paul Emsley poses in front of his portrait of Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after its unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in central London.

The first official portrait of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known by her former name Kate Middleton, was unveiled in London on Friday, and opinion was sharply divided over an image many deemed unflattering.

The 31-year-old, who as a glamorous future queen is one of the world’s most photographed women, is portrayed in the large canvas with a faint smile, long, copper-tinted hair and shadow under her eyes.

Award-winning artist Paul Emsley, surrounded by a scrum of international news crews at the National Portrait Gallery where the work was revealed, described the duchess as a “wonderful subject” and “generous as a person.

“The brief was that it should be a portrait which in some way expressed her natural self rather than her official self,” he said.

“When you meet her, that really is appropriate. She really is that kind of a person. She’s so nice to be with and it’s genuine and I felt if the painting can convey something of that then it will have succeeded.”

National Portrait Gallery staff said the duchess and her husband Prince William visited earlier on Friday and were “very pleased” with the outcome of a painting based on photographs taken at two sittings in May and June last year.

“Her family are also very pleased,” Emsley said. “To me that’s the ultimate test in a way, because they know her better than anyone else.”

WIDESPREAD CRITICISM

Public reaction was less positive, however, with views on Twitter and newspaper websites overwhelmingly negative.

Many comments focused on how the image had aged the duchess, herself a graduate in art history, while others took the artist to task for portraying her smiling slightly.

One Daily Mail reader from Canada summed up broader opinion in an unnamed comment.

“OMG, how awful! Rather than being overly flattering as many royal portraits are, this one is the extreme opposite. She’s barely recognizable! Poor Kate, forced to say she’s ‘thrilled’ when in all likelihood, she is as horrified as the rest of us.”

Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak called the portrait “pretty ordinary … He (Emsley) 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.”

Glasgow-born Emsley, whose previous commissions included former South African President Nelson Mandela, knew he would be in the public eye when taking on a subject of the duchess’s stature as a royal and global celebrity.

“It’s probably the most important portrait I’ll ever do, and when you realize that, you do start to think rather carefully about what you’re doing perhaps more than you usually do, and that made me more cautious than I normally am.”

The duchess has recently been in the headlines after spending four days in hospital being treated for acute morning sickness having announced she was pregnant.

The National Portrait Gallery commissioned the painting of its patron, and it was given to the gallery by Hugh Leggatt through the Art Fund.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Hillary Clinton headed to Boston for women's leadership…

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Massachusetts Wednesday amid continuing speculation about making another bid for the presidency in 2016.

Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

MLB

Red Sox and Orioles meet Monday morning at…

Red Sox and Orioles meet Monday morning at 11 a.m.

NHL

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings…

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings in Game 2

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.