The artist who was commissioned to paint the first official Kate Middleton portrait is firing back, after the piece received harsh and widespread criticism. Today (Tuesday), more than a week after Paul Emsley's piece was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the 65-year-old has broken his silence. "Some of the words written about it were so personal. I'd be inhuman if I said it didn't affect me," Emsley tells Hello!. "'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." Emsley says, as with all high profile commissions, there's an expectation that there will be some 'flak.' "I expected nothing like the criticism I have received. I didn't expect it to go to the levels it did."
Critical reviews of the Kate Middleton painting described the portrait as "rotten", "ghastly", "botched", and "old" -- pointing specifically to the wrinkles under the Duchess' eyes and her grimace. Emsley says not only did that type of feedback impact him, but his family, too. "The worst thing is it was not only destructive to me, but particularly upsetting for my two daughters and my wife."
Kate Middleton selected Emsley to do the piece from a shortlist of artists. The Duchess sat for the portrait twice over the summer. It took Emsley three months to paint the portrait before it was unveiled on Jan., 11. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at the unveiling and described the portrait as "amazing" and "absolutely beautiful". Emsley claims seeing the piece as the royals did, makes a big difference. "I believe half the problem is that the portrait doesn't photograph well and I would encourage people to go and see it."
The Kate Middleton portrait will remain on display at the National Portrait Gallery until September.