Royal fans in London have a new reason to swing by the city's iconic National Portrait Gallery: The first official painted portrait of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge has been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, and was unveiled today for the public.
The National Portrait Gallery’s painting of its Patron was commissioned by the Gallery, and given 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.
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.
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘It is an exciting moment to display the first commissioned public portrait of the National Portrait Gallery's Patron, The Duchess of Cambridge. I am grateful to The Duchess for giving time for sittings, to Paul Emsley for creating such a captivating contemporary image, and to Sir Hugh Leggatt and the Art Fund for this gift.’
Stephen Deuchar, Director, the Art Fund, says: ‘The unveiling of a first official portrait of a royal sitter is always an important and intriguing moment, defining and enshrining their public image in a new way. We are delighted that Sir Hugh Leggatt chose to make this gift to the British public and the National Portrait Gallery through the Art Fund.’
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley is on display now as part of the Contemporary Collections in the Lerner Galleries, Room 36, Ground Floor, National Portrait Gallery, Admission, as ever, is free, although donations upon entering are appropriate.
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley, 2012 © National Portrait Gallery, London; A National Portrait Gallery commission given by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of Sir Denis Mahon through the Art Fund