Kate Middleton’s Portrait Artist Paul Emsley Responds to “Vicious” Criticism

British artist Paul Emsley poses in front of his portrait of Kate Middleton after its unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in central London on January 11, 2013. Leon Neal/AFP/Getty

Paul Emsley is standing by his work. The award-winning Scottish artist, who painted the first official portrait of Kate Middleton earlier this month, is speaking out for the first time over the harsh criticism he received from the public for his rendering of the Duchess. 

“Some of the words written about it were so personal. I’d be inhuman if I said it didn’t affect me,” Emsley told Hello! magazine. “When you take on commissions like this it is hazardous and you expect a bit of flak, but I expected nothing like the criticism I have received. I didn’t expect it to go to the levels it did.

Describing the criticism that spread rapidly on social media as a “witch hunt,” Emsley said it was “particularly upsetting” for his wife and two daughters. Some critics online said the painting was “not flattering” and “doesn’t capture her beauty.”

“At first the attacks were so vicious that there was a point where I myself doubted that the portrait of the Duchess was any good,” the Glasgow-born, South African-raised artist admitted. “But now I’ve had time to reflect, I am still happy with it and am getting on with my life. There is nothing I would have changed.”

paul emsley, kate and will
Kate Middleton and Prince William meet artist Paul Emsley after viewing his new portrait of the Duchess on January 11, 2013. John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty

Though the general public may not have seen a striking resemblance between Middleton, 31, and her portrait, the royal family was very impressed. “I thought it was brilliant . . . Amazing . . . Absolutely brilliant,” the Duchess, who is expecting her first child with Prince William, previously told curators of the portrait. And her husband, 30, agreed, saying, “It’s just amazing, I thought it was brilliant.”

And Emsley believes his critics should go see the painting, which took nearly four months to create, in person at the National Portrait Gallery before they judge his work. “I believe half the problem is the portrait doesn’t photograph well,” he explained, “and I would encourage people to go and see it.”

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