Duncan MacMillan on Kate’s portrait: ‘It looks like a passport photo except she has a weird grin’
KATE, as she is known, or Catherine Duchess of Cambridge as she is called more formally, has had her portrait painted.
She thinks it’s amazing and brilliant. Her husband thinks it’s brilliant too. They share such an eloquent critical vocabulary, you can tell they studied art history at St Andrews.
She wanted her portrait to be informal, so it is intended to be a picture of her as Kate, not as the duchess. The painter is Paul Emsley. He has painted Nelson Mandela among other dignitaries and is Glasgow born, South African educated and a sometime finalist for the BP Portrait Award.
You could guess the latter from the portrait. The BP Portrait Award is dominated by paintings based on photographs and painted with extraordinary care so that they look like the original, the photograph, I mean, not the person, and this picture has all the drawbacks of that approach.
Her face is in the light and set against a dark background. It looks like a blown-up passport photo, except that she has a rather weird grin on her face. The painter has also spent a lot of time on the consequent dimples.
This might be meant to capture her girlish charm, but actually it makes makes her look unnaturally old.
One thing does come out in consequence, however, which is quite unexpected and for which I will give the artist all credit.
For all her sweetness of demeanour, the duchess is clearly very determined and a tough cookie.
She wasn’t going to let her prince escape and hung in there till she had him firmly hooked. That determination shows.
There is steel in those eyes. She looks like the kind of princess who would have held her own in Wolf Hall.
If the eyes in this portrait are at all true to life, she will certainly prove a match for the Windsors.
• Duncan MacMillan is an art critic for The Scotsman