View Full Version : Kate's first official portrait --- reaction?

Brian Barnes
01-11-2013, 07:44 PM
This article shows and discusses Kate Middleton's first official portrait.
Kate's official portrait. (http://shine.yahoo.com/beauty/kate-middleton-8217-first-official-portrait-draws-mixed-203200896.html)

Personally I don't like it. Apparently I'm not the only one feeling this way. The background is dark and dead and conveys the wrong feeling IMO. She looks like an apparition peering out of the darkness. Technically it's well done:) ... but should/could be more cheerful:(.

Kate says she loves it. Is she just being polite, not wanting to offend the artist? Can you imagine this hanging with the other portraits of royalty? I wonder what her grandmother-in-law thinks.

What is your feeling?


01-11-2013, 08:07 PM
Well... it's large.

I think you hit upon the nature of the problem... it's technically well rendered. But, it really does seem lifeless and stiff.

Apparently all the Royals along with Kate's parents think that the portrait is beautifully done... they're happy with it, who are we to judge? :)

Brian Barnes
01-11-2013, 08:22 PM
...who are we to judge? :)

Exactly. We do it all the time in WC. That's why I'm asking. Are we not just as qualified as the royal family to judge? They are very nice people. But what are they really thinking behind those tall doors?

There are a lot of experienced and valued critics here.:thumbsup: Char, you are one of them.:)

I'd sure like to know what their feelings are. All C&C should be heard on this one IMO. :D


01-11-2013, 08:42 PM
Apparently all the Royals along with Kate's parents think that the portrait is beautifully done... they're happy with it, who are we to judge?

Mmmmmm well I'm fairly sure that if they thought it was awful they wouldn't be upfront about it in public as they would be very aware of the damage they could do to the artist, it's a bit of a responsibility when you are that much in the public eye. :wink2:

In addition, the Queen and Prince Charles are far too well mannered to express public dislike and I expect so are the younger royals. I look at the report that the Duchess stayed only ten minutes and wonder why she was in such a hurry to leave? :wink2: the real test will be where this portrait will be on display and whether he's ever asked to paint for the royals again :evil:

My first thoughts were that it was a very dull potrait of a much older Duchess, and I couldn't understand why it looked so stiff and lacklustre, but he apparently took only 2 photos and worked from one of them :( IMHO he should have taken far more photos and worked from a number of them - in addition to some quick sketches and colour records.

01-11-2013, 10:00 PM
Wow, she looks really old! I don't follow royalty, but I think she really looks much younger than this. She has too many lines around her eyes, and the eye makeup looks too heavy and gray. Her eyes even seem tired. Below her cheeks her face looks a bit sunken. There is a grayish cast to the facial shadows. It looks like a portrait she may "grow into" in a few decades.

01-11-2013, 11:22 PM
Here's a quote from the artist, Paul Emsley: "If you are working with someone who has whose face is just a lovely face, it's harder to find something in the portrait that gives it some sort of gravitas. In this case I've tried to do that with the smile and the dimples and the shadows around the face."

I can understand wanting to give the portrait a timeless, classic quality. But I haven't seen Queen Elizabeth looking this severe in a portrait. Of course, they don't want her to outshine the queen, but they don't want her to look ready for the grave either.

Brian Barnes
01-12-2013, 12:36 AM
Paul Emsley's work is very photorealistic and reveals amazing talent. All of his works that I've found on the internet have very dark featureless backgrounds. Surely as an artist he knows this conveys a mood.

I don't mind that the BG is featureless ... but why not some uplifting colour for such a young and beautiful mother-to-be?

His excellent portrait of Nelson Mandela had that same dark background. But there it was in proper context and worked well with his white hair.

I'm still shaking my head.


01-12-2013, 01:27 AM
She looks like she is about to set her face in a sneer.

01-12-2013, 02:09 AM
I think the artist missed the youth and twinkle in the eye. And happiness!

01-12-2013, 04:54 AM
Agree with Annie.
And there are a number of people congratulating the artist on fb.....so there you go, not everyone dislikes it, or they are not being honest lol

01-12-2013, 05:42 AM
I wasn't one of them, Lulu.

I wrote that her face looks too fat, likewise her nose, and she has a smirky smile instead of the radiant one we see in most photos of her. She also looks to be about 10 years older than she actually is. What woman doesn't want to look older in a portrait???? :rolleyes:

I don't like the dark background and the bags under her eyes either.

I saw one report that he is mostly known for his ultra-realistic portraits of rhinos and elephants plus the one of Nelson Mandela. :angel:


01-12-2013, 06:02 AM
Interesting thread!

For me it looks dead and lifeless.
Why that dark background ?

I would have expected a more "younger" looking portrait which does NOT mean she looks oöld, but which means maybe an alla prima approach.
Well, she'a young person representing the future of the British monarchy -- why not show this in her portrait?

Just my own point of view.

However, when it comes to portraits, the commissioners' whish are the most important to judge about if the portrait is a success ...*shrug*

01-12-2013, 06:52 AM
Perhaps a little more eye twinkle but I like it,looks like a good pastel.


01-12-2013, 07:02 AM
I agree Char :JJ : and Annie
and that background make her look Old and grumpy just I like ME

01-12-2013, 12:14 PM
I think it looks just like her but I'd have chosen a big smile and lighter background in which to depict Kate; it's just too dark. It seems like she's just about to smile or say something, not something that one would want their royal portrait to portray.

01-12-2013, 04:27 PM
This portrait just illustrates that painting a portrait is more than just capturing likeness. You have to capture the soul of your subject and i dont think this artist has. Just my opinion.

01-13-2013, 01:59 AM
Alle Fotos und Gemälde von Hoheiten sind "geschönt", somit etwas steif und unrealistisch.
Sie bringen es auf den Punkt Ona - diese Bilder sind ohne "Leben".
Wie realistisch und pfiffig würden dagegen Portraits von Atlee, Ona, Lulu usw. aussehen.
Aber diese Leute werden nicht eingeladen zum Porträtieren nach dem Original - schade!

All photos and paintings of Highnesses are "beautified", thus a bit stiff and unrealistic.
They get to the point Ona - these pictures are "life".
How realistic and smart contrast portraits of Atlee, Ona, Lulu would look etc..
But these people are not invited to portray after the original - pity!


01-13-2013, 07:20 AM
Ernst says: "How realistic and smart contrast portraits of Atlee, Ona, Lulu would look etc..
But these people are not invited to portray after the original - pity!

One of those fiercely competitive English newspapers could sponsor a contest! Considering that the "Official Portrait' has met with general dissatisfaction, wouldn't it be fun if they ran a few weeks of competing portraits (there are more than enough news pictures for artists to look at for inspiration, without copying!) There could be a professional and an amateur section. Not any prize required, even -- although the public could vote for their favorites. : )

Maybe Yorky could set this up as a challenge here in The Studio?

Lynn/LC~ (Yes, I'd have liked to see more of Kate's flashing-eyed, dimpled mischief and her brilliant smile in this first "Young Kate" portrait -- time enough for serious portraits after William's on the throne!)

01-13-2013, 11:20 AM
Knowing the British media, they would have much preferred a nude Kate....say what?
I think the artist took the middle ground and knows that this portrait will be around long after he is gone....

It would seem to me that it must be extremely difficult to please everyone.

01-13-2013, 12:22 PM
I am not excited by it, but he is a brilliant Artist


01-13-2013, 01:04 PM
As an official portrait it should accurately reflect the subject, both in appearance and in spirit. This portrait barely hits the mark on the first, and totally missed the mark on the second!

She's a young vibrate stunning woman who naturally glows and whose smile lightens any photo I've ever seen of her. And not a fake smile either. It is a real smile that carries clear from the curl of her mouth, through her cheeks and into the twinkle of her eyes.

This portrait is dark. She looks too old and haggard. The grimace on her face is Grinch like in its menacing lines.

He is a good artist, but on this one, I think he blew it.

01-13-2013, 03:42 PM
I couldn't agree more, Caryl.

01-13-2013, 03:56 PM
My first impression was that she looked old. Technically I think he is an extremely competent artist, but I understand that he has admitted that he became very cautious when painting this portrait. I suspect he tried to convey a sense of regality and serenity.

I don't like to judge a painting without seeing the original but from the photos I have seen I would say it hasn't really worked.

01-14-2013, 07:16 AM

Ok I was wrong about the artist striving for a sense of royalty. But I think the work looks better in this video.

01-14-2013, 08:02 AM
why bother I could get one as good with my digital camera and have it reproduced as an oil painting ....in hong kong

I am glad I am not paying for it....
at least Rolf did a full sitting, and it looked like a real painting this dose not .

dam them digital cameras

01-14-2013, 10:03 AM
Perhaps they should have picked another artist. It is a commissioned portrait, and they should have anticipated what the result would be. As with many artists, this work may convey more about the artist than his subject.

01-14-2013, 10:15 AM
Take a look at the video as pointed out by Irena post #24.
I think his explanation is worthwhile hearing.


01-14-2013, 01:57 PM
It simply has no personality!!! Very disappointling!!


01-14-2013, 02:05 PM
Yes IrenA, it does look much better in the video!!!


Brian Barnes
01-14-2013, 02:06 PM
The painting does look better in the video. :)

I still can't get past the fact that so much dark was used for the BG considering her blouse was dark.

Take a look at this recent portrait of the Queen ...
Queen Portrait (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/7635004/Queen-portrait-by-Britains-youngest-royal-painter.html)

IMO the Queen's portrait is far superior with regards to lighting. This is the treatment Emsley should have used. It is far more uplifting and cheerful.


01-14-2013, 02:08 PM
It is better in the video, but still a poor choice of reference photos and color choices.

01-14-2013, 02:38 PM
First thing I thought when I saw the video is -- she's picked the wrong picture of herself. As an actress who constantly has to choose photos to represent myself, my first thought on seeing that photo was it was stiff and lifeless and had a posed quality to it.

Most headshot photographers at a session will keep snapping through your smile because there is a moment when the smile is completely relaxed, the moment before not really capturing the eyes, and the moment after where it has been held too long and a rictus of the muscles sets in, and the eyes deaden. That is where I think that smile is on the spectrum. I don't think any amount of painting technique can remove that. He is a very accomplished portraitist. I think there is something to be said for painting from life, but if you can't why not use technology to advantage? He could have used more than one photo to get a livelier more natural smile.


01-14-2013, 03:13 PM
When I compare the portrait of the queen (2010) with Kate Middleton's portrait, I feel that the queen, even though old, looks livelier than Kate. And a lot of this is due to color choices. The queen's skin looks glowing, pearly and luminous in the light, and warm with siennas and ochers in the shadows.

Kate's portrait has gray/purple shadows on her face. And since there is really nothing to look at other than the shadow lines (the planes of her face have a soft-focus airbrushed forgettable look), those purple/gray lines really draw attention and add on the years and give a cold, stony feel.

01-14-2013, 03:50 PM
I've just been looking at other paintings by Paul Emsley on the Internet, and I see that most of his work is black and white or other monochrome. Where he does use color, it has a rather creepy quality. It's all really good work, but it's creepy and has a persistent feeling of death. I wonder why they picked him for this portrait.

01-14-2013, 06:27 PM
I see what you mean Cathy, some of his portraits look like death masks to me!


01-14-2013, 07:07 PM
That dark background lacks any depth, flattening the entire painting... the references that the Artist used all had some kind of ambient lighting which really did make a difference in Kate's appearance... it really does make her appear to be much older...

Again, though, the Family claim to be thrilled with it... and I'm sure there will be many more portraits to come... Hopefully, a different Artist will be chosen for the next one...

piccolo mondo
01-14-2013, 08:36 PM
Okay, I'm going to jump in and even apologize ahead of time for this comment, but after a few years of having married into brit royalty, this photo ( sorry, painting ) may become quite flattering.

01-14-2013, 09:48 PM
Imo, this protrait makes her look ten years older than she is. To me, it is completely lacking her young, vivacious spirit. It appears very dark in atmosphere & rather eerie.
The artist did a great technical job here, but I think he missed the mark of portraying "Catherine".

01-15-2013, 12:41 AM
Well, i think the portrait is terrible. Kate is a beautiful, lively young lady and this makes her look old and dowdy.


01-15-2013, 07:58 AM
The painting selection could not have been her choice. There were photos of Kate in People magazine well before the wedding that were beautiful examples of her wonderful personality and youthful good looks. Maybe naturally she just upstaged the portrait wall too much.


01-15-2013, 02:02 PM
I liked Robert Hannaford's portrait much better:

Kate (http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/news/newsstories/8252621/catherine-middleton-portrait-auction)


01-15-2013, 02:10 PM
That IS stunning- and really captures both her personality and beauty!

Brian Barnes
01-15-2013, 03:20 PM
Yes! :thumbsup: Hannaford's portrait, while not as elaborate, conveys a more pleasant mood and has a viewing angle that is not so "in your face" confrontational. I prefer a sideways gaze as in this portrait.


01-15-2013, 03:29 PM
Jan, I agree. Hannaford's portrait seems to capture her spirit and loveliness much better than the other one does.


01-15-2013, 03:55 PM
*Nodding* in agreement with you guys ^^^ about Robert Hannaford's ability to capture Kate's personality! Is she looking too happy for a Royal Portrait???

01-16-2013, 05:42 AM
I think the Hannaford portrait is attractive but lacks presence unlike the Emsley.

01-16-2013, 09:35 AM
I agree with those that call the expression a sneer. For me, her expression makes the portray very cold and hard. It almost creeps me out.

If somebody showed me that portray and told me: "That is the woman who'll move in next doors, I'd gulp.

01-16-2013, 10:23 AM
Exactly! Like she's going to move in and start counting your puppies for a made to measure coat!

01-18-2013, 11:32 AM
Looks like a bad senior (in high school) picture! When will the royals learn to ask us first? :lol: :wink2:

01-19-2013, 12:47 PM
I like the portrait.
My very first impression - I first saw it on the internet, and took me right into her beautiful features. Is frontal, but the expression is interesting enough to me. I found it classy, modern, simple, quiet. The darkness and austerity of the background contrasts with the soft, delicate features of her face, makes her face pop up out of the painting, and I see a young woman emerging from it.

I don't mind when artists put certain features on a person's face like bag under the eyes and lines, after all, what's wrong with a little dose of reality? I'm tired of he Photoshoped / airbrushed fashion magazine covers.

Now take a listen to what the artist has to say about his choices. Here is the youtube video, the artist himself talks about his process.