Painter adds ‘20 years & 20 pounds’ to Duchess in royal portrait

Kate middleton

They did not necessarily know much about art, but they knew they did not like the way the Duchess of Cambridge looked in her new portrait.

"She looks like the head bouncer in a security firm," one commenter posted on The Daily Telegraph's website.

The painting, by Paul Emsley, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday, and if nothing else, it successfully brought out the inner art critic in even non-art critics.

"I hate to be negative," someone posted on The Guardian's website, "but it's really tragically awful."

Emsley, who was commissioned by the gallery to produce the work, won the BP Portrait Award in 2007 for a painting of Michael Simpson, a fellow artist. The former Kate Middleton sat for him twice, and he continued painting from photographs he took.

The biggest complaint about the work, a head-and-shoulders portrait, is that it puts about 20 years, and possibly 20 pounds, on the duchess, who is 31 and as slender as they come (despite being pregnant). It is somewhat hazy, as if it were a photograph that had been heavily airbrushed to disguise the subject's age wrinkles.

Alastair Adams, president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, told the BBC that the painting was admirably "straightforward and very pure".

Unfortunately for Emsley, who is unlikely to produce work that generates this degree of interest anytime soon, most art critics begged to differ.

"It looks as if the painter asked the subject to 'say cheese!' and then told her to scram and buy some clothes while he painted the photograph," David Lee, former editor of Art Review magazine, said in The Daily Mail.

Waldemar Januszczak, art critic for The Times of London, said it was the boring type of royal painting "we've been really churning out for the last few hundred years in Britain."

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