William, portrait of Kate photographed by art critics: “Frumpy, Inanimate, Sulky”

The first official joint portrait of Prince William and Kate Middleton, unveiled in Cambridge on Thursday, has been criticized by leading British art critics, suggesting that viewers wishing to see a truer likeness would ‘better go to Madame Tussaud’ .

The portrait was unveiled by the royal couple during a visit to the county of Cambridgeshire, where they derive their titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. As the painting was commissioned by the Cambridgeshire Royal Portrait Fund as a gift to the county, it was decided that the piece should be imbued with symbols honoring this.

William and Kate are shown full-length against a background color scheme inspired by the stone buildings of Cambridge. The Duchess also wears a special brooch lent to her by Queen Elizabeth II and known within the Royal Family as the “Duchess of Cambridge Brooch” which belonged to Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge (1797- 1889).

The official portrait marks the first joint painted likeness of William and Kate and will be on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum for three years. June 2022.
Jamie Coreth/Fine Arts Commissions

Jamie Coreth, the artist who created the piece – which will be on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum for three years – said:

“It was the most extraordinary privilege of my life to be chosen to paint this picture. I wanted to show Their Royal Highnesses in a way that they appeared both relaxed and approachable, as well as elegant and dignified.

“As this is the first portrait to depict them together, and specifically during their tenure as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I wanted the image to evoke a sense of balance between their public and private lives.”

Although the portrait has received a warm reaction from royal watchers on social media, British art critics are less enthusiastic.

AN Wilson, writing for the daily mail, reserved its most scathing review for the depiction of the Duchess, who is shown looking to one side wearing a glam, shimmering green gown by indie designer The Vampire’s Wife.

Wilson describes the royal in the painting as “melancholy, slightly petulant and in fact unrecognizable as Our Kate”.

He goes on to say that she “deserves better than this frumpy, lifeless, rather sulky version of her,” before adding:

“Although the Cambridge family are certainly still young and beautiful, they should commission good art to immortalize them.

“It would not be merely an act of vanity. It would be a proclamation to the world, and to future generations, of why we place our hopes in them for a continuation of constitutional monarchy.”

Reaction to the portrait of Prince William and Kate Middleton
The first joint portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did not elicit praise from British art critics. Kate (L) pictured in Ireland, March 3, 2020. The couple’s portrait (C) by Jamie Coreth, June 2022. And William (R) pictured July 1, 2021.
James Whatling/Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Jamie Coreth/Fine Arts Commissions/Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Wilson’s criticisms were also echoed by The Times of LondonChief Art Critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston, who described the painting as a “swaggering portrait”, adding that it looks like Kate is “sporting a shadow at five o’clock”.

His assessment is that the image is too flattering while making the models look like “window mannequins designed to advertise a modern monarchy”.

“If you want to meet them in rebuttal,” Campbell-Johnston concludes, “you’d probably be better off going to Madame Tussaud’s.”

The telegraphAlastair Sooke of had a slightly warmer reaction to the work, praising Coreth’s deft composition which offers “a flash of [William and Kate’s] be private, which thwarts the public formality of the occasion.”

However, even he admits finding the execution of the portrait “a little weird”, saying it “looks like a superimposed smartphone shot with various ‘effects’.

Sooke adds that the overtly traditional elements incorporated into the painting made it too conventional. He said: “If William wishes, one day, to reinvigorate the monarchy with youthful energy, may I humbly suggest that the next time he chooses a portrait painter, he will not play it so carefully.”

Despite critics’ consensus on the portrait, the likeness of the popular royal couple has been praised on social media.

Broadcaster Dr. Joy Henningsen tweeted her admiration for Kate’s portrayal in particular, adding that her choice of dress – previously worn on her first visit to the Republic of Ireland – had diplomatic overtones. She wrote:

“The likeness to Duchess Kate is perfect. The likeness to Prince William is also very good, although he is more handsome than in this photo! I don’t think I’ve liked the portraits so much since the Obamas. [portraits] were released: a unifying image for the British Isles as Kate wore this dress in [Ireland] in 2020!”

Another user reacted on Twitter with the post: “The more I look at this portrait, the more I realize how brilliant it is in so many ways. Their quiet confidence, their attitude, their expressions. The way Catherine stands out as a shining jewel and William as a statesman…it’s perfect.”

As well as being on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the painting of the future king and queen will be loaned to the National Portrait Gallery in London for a short period on the occasion of the reopening of the gallery, of which Kate is the patron, in 2023. .

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