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First official portrait of Duchess of Cambridge unveiled

The new portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge by artist Paul Emsley, which goes on show to the pubic today at the National Portrait Gallery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire PRESS ASSOCIATION. The new portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge by artist Paul Emsley, which goes on show to the pubic today at the National Portrait Gallery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire PRESS ASSOCIATION.

Friday, January 11, 2013
12:56 PM

The first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge has been unveiled.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet artist Paul Emsley. Picture: John Stillwell/PA WireThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet artist Paul Emsley. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Kate described the image, created by award-winning artist Paul Emsley, as “amazing”.

The large head and shoulders painting of the Duchess is set against Emsley’s trademark dark background.

Kate’s painting was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and, following her suggestion, depicts her natural, not official, persona.

The Duchess, who wore a burgundy dress by Whistles, was joined by her husband the Duke for a private viewing of the painting this morning before it goes on display to the public this afternoon.

The royal couple spent around 10 minutes looking at the portrait privately then met Emsley and his wife Susanne and daughter Marie.

Kate has been suffering from a rare form of pregnancy sickness but looked well and smiled as she chatted to the artist.

She told him: “It’s just amazing, I thought it was brilliant.”

The Duke of Cambridge also had high praise for the painting, saying: “It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

The Cambridges later attended a private breakfast reception at the London gallery to mark the unveiling. Among the guests were Kate’s parents Carole and Michael Middleton and her brother and sister Pippa and James.

Asked what Kate, who has a history of art degree, thought of the painting, Emsley replied: “I think, from what I can see this morning, she’s delighted with it. I’m very happy about that.”

He went on: “I was delighted to get the commission and then after that it began to sink in to me how important this would be.

“A person whose image is so pervasive, for an artist it is really difficult to go beyond that and find something which is original - you have to rely on your technique and your artistic instincts to do that and I hope I’ve succeeded.”

Talking about the how he composed the painting, Emsley said: “In discussions it became clear that what she wanted herself, and I was very happy with that, was that the portrait should convey her natural self as opposed to her official self.

“In the sessions of photography from which I worked, I was always aware of the fact that we would use the hair very much as a kind of frame for the face, and not too much in the way of jewellery, other than the earring, to try to create something of her natural warmth, her natural serenity.

“The fact she is a beautiful woman is for an artist difficult. In the end I think what I tried to do really was to convey something about her warmth and her smile.

“Any artist will tell you doing a smiling portrait is not at all easy so that was difficult.”

Questioned about his views of his work, Emsley said: “It’s complex, it’s difficult. You always see the (problems), you’re always unhappy with what you do but it has seemed today that everyone likes it.”

Earlier, when the Duke and Duchess first arrived at the gallery, its director walked them through the building, past the double portrait of William and Harry.

But the Duke’s eye was caught by a mini exhibition of royal photographs taken by Mario Testino and he stopped to look at his and Kate’s official engagement picture.

The royal couple left the gallery soon after the painting was unveiled to the press.

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