Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paul Emsley's Portrait of Princess Kate

Artist Paul Emsley poses next to his portrait of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge
The portrait is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Photo Source: MSN News
© AP Photo/Sang Tan, 2013

Paul Emsley’s photo-realistic style is somewhat controversial among art critics, and many believe he butchered the portrait of the most popular royal since Princess Diana. I disagree. I believe he has captured the Duchess's timeless beauty, an ageless wisdom that she will “grow into” in the coming years. He has also captured the face of a grown young woman who is already learning to balance a private inner life with a very public outer life.

True to Princess Kate’s wishes, Mr. Emsley worked tirelessly over the course of several months to capture her natural self, which he describes from his two sittings with her as “enormously open and generous.” {9} He took many photographs of her during their time together, and in their final sitting at Kensington Palace, he allowed her to choose which photograph he would use for the portrait.

In his early days as a painter Mr. Emsley “worked from life,” but his anxiety over the comfort of his subjects and the advances in photographic precision have shaped his current practice of working primarily from photographs. From the original image the Princess chose, Mr. Emsley made close-ups of the details around her eyes, her mouth, her cheekbones, and her hair.

It is perhaps this close-up quality, combined with his characteristic dark background, that has most rankled the art critics, many of whom believe that the portrait ages the beloved Princess by ten years or more. The Duchess, however, did not appear distressed in the least by his portrayal. It is said that she praised it highly, as did her husband, Prince William.

Unlike the public, who is used to her enhanced media photos, Kate and William must have appreciated the subtle nuances, including the wrinkles around her mouth and her unique cheekbone structure. Perhaps it is wise to take cues from them. Perhaps this is the truest representation of the Duchess that we have seen to date.

Vintage Glass Perfume Bottle Image

1. Boniface, Susie. “Kate Middleton given Diana’s favourite earrings by Prince William.” Mirror News. July 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013.
2. Cruz, Debbie. “Kate Middleton’s jewelry in 2012 (Photos).” Examiner. December 25, 2012. Accessed January 31, 2013.
3. Diana’s Jewels. “Earrings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
4. Diana’s Jewels. “Rings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
5. English, Rebecca. “I’m thrilled! Kate puts on a brave face as she sees first official portrait critics are calling ‘rotten’.” DailyMailOnline. January 11, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2013.
6. English, Rebecca. “What’s in a ring? Palace confirms that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding band when he marries Kate Middleton.” DailyMailOnline. March 31, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013.
7. Faiola, Anthony. “In uproar over portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, its artist speaks out.” The Washington Post. January 31, 2013.
8. Murray, Rheana. “Kate Middleton’s first official portrait revealed: Painting of Duchess of Cambridge met with mixed reaction. New York Daily News. January 11, 2013.
9. National Portrait Gallery. “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
10. National Portrait Gallery. “News Release: National Portrait Gallery commissions first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge.” Last updated January 11, 2013.
11. National Portrait Gallery. “The BP Portrait Award 2012: The Exhibition.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
12. Satter, Raphael. “Critics Divided Over Duchess of Cambridge Portrait.” The Big Story. Last updated January 11, 2013.
13. Wilkes, David and Fay Schlesinger. “A ring fit for his mother…and his love: Prince William’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring for Kate.” DailyMailOnline. November 17, 2010. Accessed January 31, 2013.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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