News Release: National Portrait Gallery commissions first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge

Friday 11 January 2013

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, on show to the public from 2.30pm.

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. 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. 

Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, now The Duchess of Cambridge, was born in Berkshire and attended Marlborough College. The Duchess studied at the British Institute in Florence before enrolling at the University of St Andrews in Fife to study History of Art. She married Prince William of Wales at Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011. In January 2012, St. James’s Palace announced The Duchess’s acceptance of five honorary positions, one of which was a Patronage of the National Portrait Gallery. Her first solo public engagement was the opening of its Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition and The Duchess has shown a keen interest in portraiture and photography.  

Glasgow-born Paul Emsley (b.1947) grew up in South Africa before moving to England in 1996. He won first prize in the BP Portrait Award in 2007 for his striking large-scale study of the face of his neighbouring artist Michael Simpson. His previous commissions have included the author V S Naipaul (2009) and Nelson Mandela (2010). He is represented by the Redfern Gallery of London and is associated with Brundyn + Gonsalves Gallery in South Africa. (www.paulemsley.com)

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 free

Go to www.npg.org.uk to see a special film on the making of this portrait.

A shorter version is available for broadcast media use.
Art Fund video: artfund.org/duchess

Art Historian and Art Fund Trustee Christopher Lloyd explores the significance of The Duchess’ first official portrait and examines the Paul Emsley’s technique and composition.

NPG 6956: HRH THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE (b. 1982)
by Paul Emsley, 2012
Oil on canvas, 1152 x 965 (45 3/8 x 38)

IMAGE CAPTION

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 

For further press information and image requests please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery Tel: 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email: nevans@npg.org.uk

To download Press images visit: www.npg.org.uk/press
For further press information relating to HRH The Duchess of Cambridge please contact: Ed Perkins or Nick Loughran, St. James’s Palace Press Office, Tel: 020 7930 4832.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055 Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  Website/Tickets: www.npg.org.uk 

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art, helping museums to buy and show great art for everyone to enjoy. Over the past 5 years it has given £24m to help over 200 museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections, from ancient sculpture and treasure hoards to Old Master paintings and contemporary commissions. It also supports a range of programmes which promote museums and their collections to wider audiences, including the national tour of the ARTIST ROOMS collection, the Art Fund Prize which rewards and celebrates Museum of the Year, and its Art Guide, a pioneering smartphone app offering the most comprehensive guide to seeing art across the UK. It is independently funded, the majority of its income coming from 95,000 members who, through the National Art Pass, enjoy free and discounted entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions.

Find out more about the Art Fund and the National Art Pass at www.artfund.org.
The press office can be reached on 020 7225 4888 or media@artfund.org