The Controversial Kate Middleton Portrait That Had Critics Up In Arms


The unveiling of Kate Middleton’s first official portrait in January 2013 marked a moment of both anticipation and controversy. Renowned artist Paul Emsley, known for his naturalistic approach, was tasked with capturing the Duchess of Cambridge’s likeness. However, upon its release, the portrait faced scathing criticism from art critics and the public alike. Critiques ranged from disparaging remarks about Middleton’s appearance to comparisons with characters from the “Twilight” films, painting the portrait in an unflattering light.

Despite the public outcry, both Middleton and Prince William voiced their satisfaction with Emsley’s work, emphasizing their appreciation for his portrayal of the Duchess. Emsley himself defended his artistic choices, explaining his process and intention to create an authentic representation of Middleton.

However, the backlash took its toll on Emsley, who initially attempted to remain diplomatic but ultimately admitted to being affected by the personal attacks directed at him. Despite the intense scrutiny, Emsley stood by his creation, asserting that he wouldn’t change anything about the portrait.


In the following years, other artists attempted to capture Middleton’s likeness, each offering their unique interpretation. Scottish artist Tom Sutton-Smith presented a different perspective, opting for a departure from hyper-realism in favor of conveying Middleton’s essence through a more abstract approach.

The fate of Emsley’s portrait took a dramatic turn in July 2023 when it was reported that the painting had been removed from public display. Speculation arose regarding Middleton’s involvement in the decision, with sources suggesting her desire for the painting to be relegated to a private gallery.

Amidst the controversy surrounding Emsley’s portrait, a joint portrait of the Prince and Princess of Wales by artist Jamie Coreth received a much warmer reception. Coreth’s portrayal aimed to capture the royal couple’s balance between their public and private personas, resonating more positively with viewers.

Additionally, a solo photographic portrait of Middleton garnered attention for its elegance and grace. Unlike Emsley’s painting, this photograph continued to be displayed prominently, symbolizing Middleton’s enduring presence in the public eye despite the challenges faced by her earlier portrait.