Duchess of Cambridge Portrait Artist Lashes Out Following Harsh Criticism

Paul Emsley stands by his artwork, calling the harsh reaction to the royal's official portrait a "witch hunt."

By Josh Grossberg
|  Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013  |  Updated 8:57 AM CDT
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Media representatives gather in front of British artist Paul Emsley's portrait of Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after its unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in central London on January 11, 2013. This is the first official portrait of the Duchess and was completed after two sittings at the artist's studio and Kensington Palace.

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The Duchess of Cambridge's portrait painter is defending his highly criticized view of the Duchess of Cambridge.

A week after receiving less-than-glowing reviews from the public, Paul Emsley revealed to Hello! that he and his family were upset by some of the snarky critiques that followed the unveiling of Middleton's official portrait, considering this was the biggest commission of his career.

"Some of the words written about it were so personal. I'd be inhuman if I said it didn't affect me," the award-winning artist told the British daily. "When you take on commissions like this, it is hazardous and you expect a bit of flak, but I expected nothing like the criticism I have received. I didn't expect it to go to the levels it did."

Kate Middleton's first official royal portrait revealed!

While Kate told reporters she thought the painting was just "brilliant," more than a few media outlets and fans of the royals were less than kind, saying it made her look older and duller than her 31 years. The reaction was harsh enough that it spawned a not-so-flattering Internet meme.

After spending four months on the painting, Emsley likened the disparagement his work received to a "witch hunt" and "circus" that took an emotional toll on his two daughters and his wife.

"At first the attacks were so vicious that there was a point where I myself doubted that the portrait of the duchess was any good. But now I've had time to reflect, I am still happy with it and am getting on with my life. There is nothing I would have changed," he said.

Kate Middleton portrait spawns Internet meme

The 65-year-old painter suggested that the reason for the harsh reaction could have been because the portrait doesn't photograph well, and he encouraged people to view it in person at the U.K.'s National Portrait Gallery.

Emsley also says he has nothing but admiration for Middleton, who sat for him on two occasions, in May and June last year.

"She struck me as enormously open and generous and a very warm person," he added. "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."

Check out the best of the portrait meme pics

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