When celebrated artist Paul Emsley revealed the first-ever official portrait of Kate Middleton last month, the backlash was enormous. From social media to art circles, critics slammed the work for portraying the 31-year-old as "aged" and "ghastly." Emsley, however, was quite pleased with the results, a sentiment shared by the duchess, who called the piece "brilliant" and "amazing."
Nevertheless, the reaction was so intense that Emsley has been forced to address some of the less flattering critiques.
"I did not deliberately age her or anything like that,” he told The Washington Post. “I wanted it to be an authentic record, but it’s very easy to put in more shadows and things than are perfectly necessary, and I haven’t done that. I’ve tried to record, in a polite way, what I regard as her natural beauty.”
In a moment of self-doubt, Emsley returned to his studio and captured Middleton's likeness a second time — this time as more glamorous, upbeat and flawless. Unfortunately for those with a preference for this version of Kate, the second go only made him appreciate the one hanging in London’s National Portrait Gallery even more.
“There’s a quotation an American friend of mine, the wife of an American artist, sent me in support,” Emsley told the Post. “When Picasso was told his portrait of Gertrude Stein did not look like her, his response was, ‘It will.’ People will become acclimatized over time to something which is not something that they were expecting."
Emsley, 65, says his revised black-and-white portrait of Kate will never be publicly unveiled and will, for now, hang only in his private studio. No photographs allowed. (That's the original below.)
“I have to accept the fact that there are many people that don’t like the portrait, and that’s fine,” he said. “As an artist, you do understand you’re never going to please everybody.”
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