Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, recently sat for her first official portrait. It was unveiled in January, but instead of being a hit, the portrait sparked instant controversy.
Middleton, 31, called the work “brilliant.” Fans said the painting, by Paul Emsley, captured Middleton’s natural beauty and humility. “It’s very human,” Alastair Adams, president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, told BBC News. “You look straight into the eyes and face. It’s immediate and not overly sentimental.”
Some critics, on the other hand, bashed the portrait, saying it didn’t do the sitter justice. “Fortunately, the Duchess of Cambridge looks nothing like this in real life,” art critic Robin Simon told the BBC. Others said it made her look older, with bags under her eyes.
The artist took many photographs of Middleton, and she helped select the photo it was based on. She also sat for the portrait twice. Despite this, many critics think the portrait is an unflattering representation of the Duchess.
All of this debate about whether this is a good likeness of the Duchess raises the question: If the painting is based on a photograph, why make the painting at all? Should artists stick to tradition and continue painting realistic portraits, or should they switch to photography?