Thursday 31 January 2013

How to solve a problem like Kate Middleton?

A lot of fuss has been made over Paul Emsley's portrait and I  think it has been terribly unfair. Painting a royal is a notoriously difficult challenge for any artist. The public are looking for a grand, beautiful and recognisable depiction of the person in question. 

However, they are figures that we are rarely seen in any state less than perfectly presented. Kate Middleton is no exception to this, in fact she is the epitome of it. You rarely see a photograph of her that does not appear to have been shot in ideal lighting, that she is not completely made up and that she doesn't sport her frankly enviable locks and her lovely smile.

I mean you just have to Google image her to see that...

So for an artist whose photo-realist approach feeds off making the imperfections in a face beautiful by celebrating the honesty of them this portrait was always doomed to have the critical lash-back that it has received. 

The artist himself said as much stating:  "The fact she is a beautiful woman is, for an artist, difficult. When you have lines and wrinkles it is much easier as an artist to capture them as a  person. Obviously she has none of that.”

Looking at his other work demonstrates this point admirably. His BP Portrait award winning painting of Michael Simpson has to be one of my favorite contemporary portraits.

This approach is not only effective when it is applied in such an extreme way or only to men, as this portrait of Katerine shows. You can see the slight bags and lines underneath the sitters eyes and the slight line on one side of her mouth which when combined with the fly away hairs over her forehead gives a much more true depiction.

To see more work by this phenomenal artist then do go to his website it really is worth it!

To make you mind up about his Kate Middleton portrait for yourself head to Room 37 in the National Portrait Gallery. It is quite different in person and if it still isn't your cup of tea then go and check out some of the other royal portraits

I wonder if they would be considered so fantastic if we had been barraged with hundreds of photographs of those sitters.

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