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Artist defends portrait
2:43pm Tuesday 22nd January 2013 in Wiltshire
An artist from Bradford on Avon has defended his work after receiving mixed reviews for the first official painting of The Duchess of Cambridge.
Paul Emsley, 65, took three months to create the portrait, entitled HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, which was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday.
Mr Emsley, who has lived in Bradford for 16 years, said the duchess, Prince William and her family approved of the portrait, as well as trustees from the gallery.
“Unfortunately some of the reviews have been written by people who have not even seen the portrait. It does not photograph well,” he said.
“There are subtleties in the face which are difficult to see in photos.
“The portrait is too smooth for most art critics and not smooth enough for those who wanted a glamorous image.
“It has been hard, of course, but I have also had a very large number of positive messages. I believe when the fuss has died down, the portrait will be seen on its own terms.”
The duchess, 31, sat for Mr Emsley in his Bradford studio in May and Kensington Palace in June and he also worked from photographs he took of her.
Mr Emsley said: “It was an unusual visit with certain special arrangements to be made, but she made it relaxed and enjoyable. I think one or two people noticed her arriving, but nothing was said and the secret has been kept since March last year.”
“She is very generous and easy to be with. I found her perceptive and intelligent.”
The artist originally planned to produce an unsmiling portrait, but upon meeting Kate he changed his mind.
He said the duchess had expressed a desire to be portrayed as naturally as possible.
“It was the right choice in the end to have her smiling. That’s really who she is.
“Everyone, I think, recognises her partly through her lovely hair and I have altered the colour of the eyes slightly to match the colour of the blouse and the blue background.”
London’s National Portrait Gallery, which the duchess is a patron of, commissioned the work and Mr Emsley was chosen to paint the portrait by the gallery’s director, Sandy Nairne.
The duchess, who studied history of art at St Andrew’s University, was also involved in the selection process.