Artist Paul Emsley Responds To Criticism On Kate Middleton Portrait, We Feel Kind Of Bad

January 22nd, 2013 // 6 Comments
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After what must have been a very proud day on January 11th for Paul Emsley, the Glasgow-born artist was not prepared for the onslaught of criticism he faced.

Emsley was selected from a shortlist to paint the Duchess of Cambridge, which he began working on last May.  Though Her Royal Highness and the Duke of Cambridge were delighted with the portrait, it didn’t take away the sting of caustic reviews.

“Some of the words written about it were so personal. I’d be inhuman if I said it didn’t affect me,” Mr 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.”

Unfortunately, we were part of that hate parade (I dare you to find someone who wasn’t). 

“It felt like a bit of a witch hunt and people who have not even seen my portrait joined in with what quickly became a circus,” Emsley continued.  ”The worst thing is it was not only destructive to me, but particularly upsetting for my two daughters and my wife.

“It really wasn’t pleasant and I stopped reading what had been written. I have coped with the criticism by going back into my studio and getting on with it.

“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. 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.”

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By Kelly Lynch

  1. Keila

    if an artist cannot endure criticism of his work, he needs to find a new profession. The whole point of art is to draw a reaction from those who view it. People reacted to it viscerally…artists should only complain when their work garners no reaction. As an amateur artists, I still say it looks like sh*t.

  2. Brian

    The criticism was due to the fact that the portrait was photo-realistic and not an airbrushed magazine caricature that most mass-market-culture consumers believe is “real.”

    Had he produced something that gave her a gaunt face with no pores or wrinkles, and a whittled-down freakish 16-inch waist ala the cover of Cosmo or Glamour, he’d have been hailed by the same nasty hoi-polloi.

    He has nothing to be ashamed of, other than the conduct of his fellow humans.

  3. scott

    err no Brian.. people were upset because the painting doesn’t look like Kate in this century.. it looks like kate in 40 years. Anyone can look at her face and see the age lines are an extreme example of artistic license

  4. Brian

    It looks just like her in a dark room with light shining from above. It’s a genuine, nonphotoshopped, real portrait… not the sort of artifice that lots of people view as “real.”

    The fact you think it made her look in her mid 60s is a great underpinning to my original point about the completely out-of-whack expectations of beauty that contemporary media culture has created.

  5. Jerry6

    As someone who earned his living for six years as a photographer, your portrait was not a “Pleasant” picture to look at. I felt sorry for Princess.

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