Michael Glover: Paul Emsley's Duchess of Cambridge portrait is catastrophic
The first official portrait makes Kate Middleton's cheeks look hamsterish, and her face saggy and a touch dropsical, writes Michael Glover
Friday 11 January 2013
Photographic realism is much more difficult than it always seems. It is rather as if the painter is envious of the so called truth-telling powers of photography, and that if he can do at least as well as the photographer, he deserves to be mightily pleased with himself. For, after all, is he not a hand rather than a machine?
Unfortunately, there is also the downside to such an approach. If he or she gets it slightly wrong, as has happened here, the results can be catastrophic.
This is a painting which is striving to be a perfect likeness of a photograph of a woman of conventional good looks who has been co-opted into the royal family from some barbarian northern outpost by dint of marriage.
Unlike, say, the portraits of a great royal likeness-maker such as Antony Van Dyke, it is not even trying to flatter. Flattery requires dexterity, subtlety, an ability to play with an image and its context.
There is no context here – no map, no skull, no heraldic mace - little other than a face. It is a face which is beginning to look just a touch dropsical.
It sags a little, ageing it needlessly. The cheeks incline towards the hamsterish. And what of this - ah! - hair? It is hair whose featheriness has been borrowed from an advert for shampoo. It is an image which also seems to be emerging (striding towards us perhaps, hair gently bouncing) from some slightly misty otherwhere, an unsmiling gift to a nation under the Coalition's almighty cosh.
Perhaps just a hint of teeth - that promise of pearly breath beyond the lip gloss - would have improved it. Slightly.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 5 Watch Richard Dawkins read his own hatemail: 'I hope you do get sodomised by satanic monkeys in hell'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now