The Duchess of Cambridge’s first official portrait has been unveiled – and was described by Kate as “amazing”.
Award-winning artist Paul Emsley created the large head and shoulders painting of the duchess set against his 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 was joined by her husband the Duke for a private viewing of the painting yesterday morning before it went on display to the public in the afternoon.
The royal couple spent 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.”
William added: “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.
The unveiling generated huge interest among the media, with dozens of photographers, cameramen and reporters crowding round the painting and its artist.
Asked what Kate, who has a history of art degree, thought of it, 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.”