Amazing or catastrophic? First official portrait of Duchess Kate divides critics
One compared the portrait to 'something unpleasant from the Twilight franchise'
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Saturday 12 January 2013
Kate Middleton may have thought it “amazing” but her portrait sparked a backlash among art critics when it was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery yesterday.
Sandy Nairnie, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said it was a “captivating contemporary image.” The Independent’s art critic called it “catastrophic”.
He was not alone, one critic called the photo-realistic portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge “rotten,” another said the face was “dour” and a third that the Duchess had been transformed into “something unpleasant from the Twilight franchise”.
The gallery commissioned Paul Emsley, the winner of its BP Portrait Award in 2007, to carry out the first official painted portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Duchess, who attended a private viewing alongside her husband Prince William in the morning, sat twice for Elmsley last year. He also worked from photographs. She said yesterday: “It’s just amazing, I thought it was brilliant.”
Art historian Ben Street was less enamoured with the final picture: “I don’t think it is particularly successful, it’s quite middle of the road. It has a very soft focus, 70s porn look, which isn’t great.”
Emsley, who has also painted portraits of VS Naipaul and Nelson Mandela, said the Duchess wanted to be portrayed “naturally, her natural self, as opposed to her official self.”
The portrait was initially going to be unsmiling, but the artists changed his mind. “I think it was the right choice in the end to have her smiling; that is really who she is.”
Some thought the facial expression was not particularly successful. Mr Street said: “It looks like she’s smirking, like she’s pleased with herself. She looks like the cat who’s got the cream; which probably wasn’t the look the artist was going for.”
Elmsley has responded to some of the criticism in a BBC interview. When a reporter told him what The Independent's critic said about his work, the artist responded by saying: "Can Michael Glover draw?"
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Best underrated Christmas movies from Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food