13 January 2013

what would Freud say?

 "which Freud?" you say.

"the late Lucian, of course," I say.

 Lucian Freud's Bella, 1996

How extraordinary would it have been if Lucian Freud could have painted the Duchess of Cambridge-his last great work?

Some of his work is atmospherically beautiful.

Freud's Bella and Esther, 2002

He had a go at the Queen in 2001.

Freud's portrait of the Queen. 9" x 6"

The Duchess views Freud's paintings. 

"Can't you just imagine transporting the Duchess into this family portrait?" I say.

 "for that matter what would Madame Tussaud say?"

"More Wax!" Madame Tussaud

 upon viewing a Freud portrait of his wife The Duke of Devonshire said:

on looker "Who is that?"
Andrew Devonshire "It's my wife." 
on looker "Well, thank God it's not mine."

(above, the Duchess of Devonshire by Lucien Freud)

"This is a double portrait of the Windsor men," I say.
"& jolly good," You say.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge & Prince Harry by Nicola Jane ('Nicky') Philipps
  © National Portrait Gallery, London

"She's a lovely woman-animated, athletic.    
Just like the guys, Right?
They look like they might just soul shake next?"

I say old chap-"why didn't the Duchess get a vibrant portrait of the woman that comes through in her countless-countless photographs?"

 (No I haven't met her or even seen her in her royal personess-but still.)

 "Yes-I see that her mouth is open a bit in this one-
but look so is the Duke's-the Prince I mean in the Harry and Wills portrait."
"say what?"
Yes-most definitely it is-

"why not in a hat?" I say hats definitely become her.

Or in a Sargent frame of mind?

Think  Edith Minturn Stokes in Sargent's Stokes painting.

"Never more lovely- her hair-windswept
why not something romantic?" I say.
 Think Pre-Raphaelite.

Windswept by John Waterhouse, 1904

"Never prettier with flowers in her hair"-I say-

No self respecting Pre-Raphaelite would disagree.

In the hands, say of Dante Gabriel Rossetti?

portrait by Paul Emsley
National Portrait Gallery, London; A National Portrait Gallery commission given by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of Sir Denis Mahon through the Art Fund
 Leggatt is a great patron of the Gallery.

"I think any artist would agree that with an older face, with lines or wrinkles, or strong distinguishing features, it's easier to create a likeness. But with a genuinely beautiful face, it's harder to convey character," Elmsley  says.

She says, "Brilliant."

He says-he altered the color of her eyes to be more harmonious with the blouse and background.
      In a style called photorealism, I say what?

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund charity, says-"There is a tradition of portraits of princesses, which he was very much aware of, and he (Leggatt) wanted to commission this image of her before the full weight of responsibilities of state and motherhood descended on her – and as it turned out, just in time."

To see it in the flesh-I say is the only way to truly judge, however from the countless images circulating-
it would appear from the portrait time ran out-
"but No I can't believe that," I say.

No small Freud, the Elmsley, is a clossal 45" x 38"

Emsley stands by the portrait of the Duchess

The Duchess of Cambridge has many portraits in her future-perhaps none will capture her-certainly Elmsley-as the first-
will be a constant reminder to those who come after-the best is yet to come.

One Hopes.

Something that captures the youth and vibrancy of them both-

"In the monumental style of the Stokes portrait," I say.

 “She carried within herself a great fund of life, and her deepest enjoyment was to feel the continuity between the movement of her own heart and the agitations of the world. For this reason, she was fond of seeing great crowds, and large stretches of country, of reading about revolutions and wars, of looking at historical pictures--a class of efforts to which she had often gone so far as to forgive much bad painting for the sake of the subject,Henry James said.

Sometimes words paint the picture best-and Time changes nothing-that is of importance, I say.

a first hand account of  viewing the portrait at The Anglophile here


  1. Looking at your third from last picture, where you can see that the portrait is much larger than recently shown in the press, she almost glows. It reminds me of the first time I saw the Mona Lisa in person. Prior to viewing it, I thought that I would just be seeing something that I had seen in books a million times before. Instead, I gazed upon an amazing portrait, smaller than I thought it would be, and I went back over and over again to view a painting that changed on me each time. I've read critiques of the Kate Portrait from people who have seen it in person. I reserve my opinion until I see it in person as well. k

  2. I wonder what Anna Freud would have said about it all? She was considered the really insightful one, apparently.

    So this recent portrait seems like an attempt of Super-realism, but through gauze? The painter seems to be apologizing for his lack of technique. Forget about how beautiful his subject is. She's beautiful. And yes- she needs a Sargent.

  3. Perhaps the Duke of Cambridge will show the same good sense that Lady Churchill once displayed --


  4. I am sorry, I just do not see life there.The portrait does not do her justice.

    Kate does glow, the has a great free spirit, a wonderful bright smile. Leggatt ( to me) does not capture any of these characteristics.Plus he has aged her at least 20 years.


    2013 Artists Series

  5. Although the subject is recognizable - a good thing - the essence of the personality was not captured - an essential element of a successful portrait. I predict it'll quietly go to storage when the buzz dies down.

  6. This was a complete miss!! To bad he couldn't show her sweetness and depth of character.

  7. I think it's horrible. Reminds me of a Breck shampoo advertisement from the 1970's. I feel a portrait should reveal not only the subject, but a feeling of the artist as well - this one seems to accomplish neither. I will be going to London in March, and hope to see it in person then, but doubt I'll feel any differently.

  8. The portrait does not do her justice...it creates a much older and worn look she might possibly be wearing 20+ years from now. Its not what she is today...so lovely, young and fresh.

  9. This is a terrific post -and I also thought about portraits by Lucien Freud and Sargent, and how they might have treated the commission -and here it is, in your post! I had not considered a pre-Raphaelite approach, and your insights are spot on. I think that a portrait is often as much of a portrait of the artist, not just the sitter. In Leggatt's case, with his depiction, I wonder if HE is melancholic, weary, disappointed -The Duchess seems enveloped in a grey haze. A portrait need not necessarily depict the sitter with photorealism accuracy, but to capture the mood of the sitter...and from where I sit, the D of C presents herself with a fresh naturalism, combined with an innate poise. The Edith Minturn Stokes portrait is a brilliant comparison.

  10. Please forgive my not answering each one of you-but I think we are in accord here for the most part. This Duchess is a student of history-and that is what prompted the post. pgt

  11. What a disembodied disappointment in creepy soft focus! It certainly doesn't capture her beauty or vibrancy and am in total agreement that perhaps a full length or plein air setting would have suited much better than the somber black background. Poor choice of artist, poor end result.



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