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First portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge

11th January 2013

First portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge

First portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge

The first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge has been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, where it is unveiled today Friday 11 January 2013.

The National Portrait Gallery’s painting of its Patron was commissioned by the Gallery and given by by Sir Hugh Leggatt, in memory of Sir Denis Mahon, through the Art Fund.      

The Duchess was involved in the selection process, from which artist Paul Emsley, the 2007 winner of the Gallery’s BP Portrait Award competition, was chosen by Director Sandy Nairne to paint her official portrait.

The Duchess took part in an initial meeting to talk through the process of the painting. This was followed by two sittings, in May and June 2012, at the artist's studio in the West Country, England, and Kensington Palace. Emsley later made use of a series of photographs produced during the sittings. His subjects are frequently located against a dark background and emphasise ‘the singularity and silence of the form’; while utilising a meticulous technique of thin layers of oil paint and glazes.

Paul Emsley says: ‘The Duchess explained that she would like to be portrayed naturally - her natural self - as opposed to her official self. She struck me as enormously open and generous and a very warm person. After initially feeling it was going to be an unsmiling portrait I think it was the right choice in the end to have her smiling - that is really who she is.’

Following three-and-a-half months of painting, the completed portrait was presented to the Gallery’s Trustees at their November 2012 meeting. 

Watch the video, produced by the National Portrait Gallery:

Visit the National Portrait Gallery website