Paul Emsley Paints Kate Middleton – National Portrait Gallery


A portrait of Kate Middleton by artist Paul Emsley is now at the National Portrait Gallery.

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, has had her portrait painted by artist Paul Emsley. The portrait was recently revealed at the National Portrait Gallery where Mrs. Kate Middleton called the portrait, “brilliant.”

Of course, it is difficult to give an honest criticism or appraisal of any artwork that has not been seen in person. However, the general consensus (at least through online commentary) is that the portrait is of the ‘bad’ kind and adds unwanted aging to her otherwise perfect face. There are also the statements that the painting is overly kitsch and looks like an advertisement for cheap shampoo, that she was but a mannikin for a technical display of stiffness, and that it was done in that ‘old-style’ of British portraiture that has been boring people for several hundred years.

One commenter on the Huffington Post claimed: “…She is so beautiful and the painting makes her old and dowdy.She deserves a lot better.”

Another stated: “That portrait UGGGGGGGG!
The artist noted he wanted to capture her natural beauty, but it looks like he put her through a computer generated aging machine. Her bright eyes and sweet grin are missing. He has done a disservice to future generations who will look at that portrait, and not see the vibrant young woman who gave a dose of vitality and life to the royal family.”

However, is the portrait really that bad?


Kate Middleton’s Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. Right: Artist Paul Emsley.

The desire to be an artist is seemingly one of the most futile desires one can possess. The possession of this desire is so apparently inherent that the desire does not appear to be a desire at all, but instead a necessary movement. How else can one explain the reason for wanting to build up a skill set that people rarely appreciate in our current times and to then be judged and criticized by a set of people whom deem themselves experts of beauty never realizing they have only adopted society’s standard for such? Everyone has an opinion, this adoption of an extreme thought believed to be right upon its adoption: if only everyone could remember that the thought was indeed adopted. It makes me wonder what the unadulterated mind would think, if anything at all.

Yet, unfortunately, I have my opinion too: the artist Paul Emsley has provided a service to a person(s) that, according to the original patron’s admission at least, has brought about satisfaction. He has attempted to create a beautiful thing by studying and recreating what nature has presented him. However, he being a human being has precluded my assumption of his perfection, and I can therefore appreciate the painting more.

I was recently reading Stephen King’s book entitled “On Writing” and Mr. King very elegantly presents the writer’s and reader’s communication as a telepathic one: the writer takes the idea from his own mind and transcribes it such a way that it appears in the reader’s mind how the writer intended it though the reader experiences the idea in a different time and place. Even if Mr. Emsley, by accident or purposefully, added years to Mrs. Kate Middleton’s features, is this really doing her a disservice? Are people in their thirties, fourties, or even fifties ugly by default? Is being older, being gracefully matured by experience, an exception for the Duchess? Is it really something to be feared and ridiculed? If so, it’s all downhill for me from here. I would argue that irrespective of the artist’s intentions he has displayed a truth that no human being has escaped, a display of the inevitable older (older instead of old because he didn’t paint her dying) age of, yes, even a Duchess, and has done so telepathically (at least from my interpretation of Mr. King’s writing) since he has effectually displayed to some extent what we have not already experienced.

I have come to the conclusion that complaining, nowadays, is the precursor to expertise. It is what the insecure do when they want to elevate themselves above the status of something they believe worthy. How else can one feel good about oneself? If you want to appear like you know what you’re talking about, complain about something. Find something close to perfect to complain about and people will believe that you have some information they don’t since you have easily seen the imperfections in something that otherwise appeared perfect. Now, you’re an expert. Of course, the above is my own satirical discourse of which I am included.

Maybe I am hopeful that people will one day come to appreciate the effort that is put into creating a something beautiful, a something beautiful that isn’t exempt from the laws of what is natural. As ironic as it seems, I believe the fastest growth and progress exist within these so-called limitations.

Thank you for reading,


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