LONDON – The Duchess of Cambridge seems to like her first official portrait, which is lucky for the artist. Many critics don’t.
Paul Emsley’s portrait of the former Kate Middleton shows the 31-year-old royal against a dark background, her lips pursed into a wry smile, with an ethereal light against her face and hair. Her pale complexion brings out the fine lines under the eyes, and the light adds a hint of silver to her rich brown hair.
Shortly after the portrait was unveiled Friday at the National Portrait Gallery in London, critics began grousing.
“It’s a great, great opportunity missed,” British Art Journal editor Robin Simon said. “The best thing you can say about it is that she doesn’t actually look like that.”
Kate “transmits a sense of joie-de-vivre,” Simon said. “This is dead, dead, dead.”
Guardian arts writer Charlotte Higgins picked up on that theme, saying the portrait had a “sepulchral gloom” about it.
“Kate Middleton is – whatever you think of the monarchy and all its inane surrounding pomp – a pretty young woman with an infectious smile, a cascade of chestnut hair and a healthy bloom,” she wrote in a post to her newspaper’s website. “So how is it that she has been transformed into something unpleasant from the ‘Twilight’ franchise?”
Some artists had praise for his work.
“I liked it, very much so,” said Richard Stone, who has frequently painted members of the royal family.
In any case, Emsley appeared to have won over his most important audience. Kate, who was with her husband, Prince William, at the gallery earlier Friday, called the portrait “just amazing.” William liked it too, saying it was “absolutely beautiful.”