Witch Hunt? Artist of Kate Middleton's Questionable Portrait Responds to Critics

Paul Emsley, the artist who painted Kate Middleton's lambasted official portrait, responds to his critics. Is there a witch hunt at work here?

Witch Hunt? Artist of Kate Middleton’s Questionable Portrait Responds to Critics

Paul Emsley, the artist who painted Kate Middleton’s lambasted official portrait, responds to his critics. Is there a witch hunt at work here?

-Lucia Peters

Kate Middleton portrait

Did you catch the unveiling of the first official, royal portrait of Kate Middleton, aka the Duchess of Cambridge two weeks ago, Bettys? No? Well, as you can see here, it’s… a little underwhelming. Sure, Kate herself may have described the portrait, which currently hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery, as “amazing,” but she would kind of HAVE to say nice things about it, no? Public responses, on the other hand, ranged from looking on the bright side (ABC News’ royal contributor, Victoria Arbiter: “All of the die-hard Kate fans are up in arms over the criticism when, actually, I think they should be seeing it as more of a compliment toward Kate, because the general consensus seems to be that Kate is much prettier in real life”) to the harshest critiques imaginable (Social columnist and author Shinan Govani: “GHASTLY: the new Kate portrait. Has turned her into a thrice-divorced senior VP who reads Fifty Shades of Grey and is mean to bus drivers”), and we can’t really say we blame them.

But what does the artist himself think about the portrait—and its criticisms? He’s a little hurt. A lot hurt, actually. So hurt that he feels like he’s the victim of a witch hunt.

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According to Vogue UK, Paul Emsley, who met with the Duchess several times before painting the portrait from a series of photographs taken of her, has started to hit back against his critics. “Some of the words written about [the portrait] were so personal,” he said. “I’d be inhuman if I said it didn’t affect me. When you take on commissions like this it is hazardous and you expect a bit of flak, but I expected nothing like the criticisms I have received. I didn’t expect it to go to the levels it did.”

So how exactly does the whole “witch hunt” thing fit into it? Continued Paul, “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. The worst thing is that it was not only desctructive to me, but particularly upsetting for my two daughters and my wife.”

Of course, it’s possible that for those of us who aren’t able to visit the portrait in person, the painting simply photographs poorly; it’s hard to judge something you haven’t actually seen. Personally? I still think it’s a little weird-looking. Then again, I’m not really a painted portrait kind of person—I much prefer a well-shot photograph—so maybe that’s just me.

In the meantime, Paul is trying to get back in the saddle again. “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,” he said. “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.”

Tell us: What do you think of the Duchess’ portrait?

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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