When the National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled Kate Middleton’s first official painted portrait, created by Scottish-born artist Paul Emsley, the world recoiled. And in a recent interview with Hello, Emsley said: “Some of the words written about it were so personal … I’d be inhuman if I said it didn’t affect me … It felt like a bit of a witch-hunt and people who had not even seen my portrait joined in.” He added that “half the problem” is that the painting doesn’t photograph well, but didn’t address the other half.
As Emsley attempts to process the full power of one work to alter an artist’s life in the age of instant media, a question swirled in his head. Should he have done the portrait differently? To answer it, he picked up a piece of black chalk a few days ago and began cathartically sketching another work. This time, it was the way the duchess’s devoted followers so often see her in glossy magazines and airbrushed photos. Flawless. Glamorous. The fairy-tale beauty who bagged a prince.
Washington Post reports she “appears bright-eyed and young, refreshed, even playful.” We can’t confirm this, though, because Emsley instituted a no-photos rule this time around and won’t let Chalk K-Mid leave his studio.
“There’s a quotation an American friend of mine, the wife of an American artist, sent me in support,” Emsley said in a four-hour interview, his most extensive since going into seclusion after the portrait’s rough reception. “When Picasso was told his portrait of Gertrude Stein did not look like her, his response was, ‘It will.’ People will become acclimatized over time to something which is not something that they were expecting.”
In other words, Kate is going to grow into the bags painted under her eyes.