Critics Bash Kate Middleton’s Official Portrait

Celebrity News Jan. 14, 2013 AT 5:30AM
Media representatives gather in front of British artist Paul Emsley's portrait of Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after its unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in central London on January 11, 2013. This is the first official portrait of the Duchess and was completed after two sittings at the artist's studio and Kensington Palace.  Media representatives gather in front of British artist Paul Emsley's portrait of Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after its unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in central London on January 11, 2013. This is the first official portrait of the Duchess and was completed after two sittings at the artist's studio and Kensington Palace. Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

The great thing about looking like Kate Middelton is that you don’t have to worry about taking a bad photo. Thanks to her fresh-faced beauty and naturally slim figure, the Duchess of Cambridge looks simply stunning most of the time, even when she’s caught off guard by paparazzi.

In other words, she’s one of the lucky ones.

So it came as kind of a surprise, when her first official portrait was unveiled on Friday, that the 31-year-old looked, well, a little off.

The portrait, painted by award-winning artist Paul Emsley, features Middleton, thee of youthful good looks and sparkling smile, looking older than her years, with sunken, line-laced eyes, and pursed lips.

The Internet has since blown up with less-than-enthusiastic feedback from some members of her adoring public, journalists, and art critics alike.

This horrible, soft-lens style painting - which the Duchess emerges from in an almost ghostly way - robs her of any of the sparkle and life she is loved for,” writes Daily Mirror art blogger Martin Newman, who doesn’t let up. “It is like an 'In Memoriam' picture etched onto the front of a dark marble gravestone or one of those paintings on black velvet that co-habitate the hallways of everyone's less discerning grandmother.”

”I was disappointed, to be honest. I have been waiting for it, like everybody else, with great expectation because the Duchess of Cambridge is someone who we know likes art and was presumably going to be an enlightened patron," Waldemar Januszczak, art critic for The Sunday Times told BBC News."But I think she's been let down really by the picture.”

“Fortunately, the Duchess of Cambridge looks nothing like this in real life,” Robin Simon, an art critic for the Daily Mail told the paper. “I'm really sad to say this is a rotten portrait.”

Others found it refreshing:

"It's very human - when you look at it, the full face is in front of you, you look straight into the eyes and face,” Alastair Adams, president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, said in the same BBC story. "It's quite natural, it's open, it's straightforward and very pure - it's immediate and not overly sentimental."

The Duchess, who sat for the portrait last year, before she was pregnant, visited the gallery with her husband to see it before its official unveiling ceremony, where the two were reportedly nothing but polite, calling the piece “amazing” and “brilliant.” (But really, what else could they say?)

Later, at the public unveiling, the 65-year-old Emsley told members of the media he had his work cut out for him.

"A person whose image is so pervasive, for an artist it is really difficult to go beyond that and find something which is original," he admitted. "You have to rely on your technique and your artistic instincts to do that and I hope I've succeeded."

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