Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge may be the most criticized painting since Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2…. Not for nudity reasons though.

People all over the world watched closely and were avid fans of the will they/won’t they drama between Kate Middleton and Prince William. The press obsessively stalked the two for over 7 years from the very beginning of the relationship all the way until the day they said “I do.” They were there for the short break-up in 2007 and for the engagement in 2010. In a way, the press was like an overbearing mother except that they had no right to (literally) helicopter them. So after the two got married and began living happily ever after, the press was basically an empty-nester and had to find a way to re-involve themselves into Kate and William’s life. And in came Paul Emsley’s royal portrait. It was just what the press needed and they took every shot they could think to take at it.

This portrait has been critiqued as follows:

  1. “She looks like the head bouncer in a security firm."

  2. “It puts about 20 years, and possibly 20 pounds, on the duchess, who is 31 and as slender as they come."

  3. “I hate to be negative, but it’s really tragically awful."

  4. “It looks as if the painter asked the subject to ‘say cheese!’ and then told her to scram and buy some clothes while he painted the photograph."

  5. “It is perfectly adequate for the boardroom of a supermarket but entirely inadequate for a national collection."

  6. “It was the boring type of royal painting ‘we’ve been really churning out for the last few hundred years in Britain."

  7. “The painting made the duchess look undead, like a character in one of the “Twilight” movies."

  8. “If Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea, had a portrait painted of himself in a similar idiom, we’d all be crowing from the rafters about the pitiful taste of foreign despots.”

Poor Paul. Apparently bashing royal portraiture is as big a sensation as cricket in the UK. He was just doing his job and it’s not like portraiture has a lot of creative options. He took his beating well though and stuck to his guns with how it turned out saying, “I tried my best.” The only thing that saved him was the fact that Kate and William liked it and their opinions are pretty much the only ones that matter.




  1. Lyall, Sarah. "Kate Middleton Portrait Draws Complaints." N.p., 2013. Web. 11 July 2017.
  2. "Kate Portrait Artist Paul Emsley: 'I Tried My Best' - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 2013. Web. 11 July 2017.
  3. Doll, Jen. "Does Anyone Like Kate Middleton's New Portrait?." The Atlantic. N.p., 2013. Web. 11 July 2017.