Critics condemn ‘dreadful’ Kate portrait as likeness to princess questioned

Royal fans and art critics have condemned a new portrait of the Princess of Wales which was meant to capture her courage and dignity.

The painting by British-Zambian artist Hannah Uzor, which is to feature on the cover of Tatler magazine, took inspiration from Kate’s cancer diagnosis video message to the nation.

But social media users poked fun at the canvas, questioning the likeness.

The Tatler July 2024 cover featuring Hannah Uzor's portrait of the princess
Hannah Uzor’s portrait of Kate (Hannah Uzor/Tatler/PA)

One asked, “Is this a parody?”, while another wrote, “That is never the princess, that is another woman in her dress”, and others branded it “dreadful”.

The Telegraph’s chief art critic Alastair Sooke called the depiction “egregiously, intolerably, jaw-hits-the-floor bad”, asking: “Has there been a flatter, more lifeless royal portrait in living memory?”

The image shows the princess at the first state banquet of the King’s reign.

She is pictured composed, standing and facing forwards in a regal, caped white Jenny Packham floor-length evening dress with sparkling detail on the shoulders, and her go-to tiara, the Lover’s Knot.

South African President State Visit to the UK
Kate at the South African state banquet at Buckingham Palace in November 2022 (Chris Jackson/PA)

She wore the ensemble to the South African state banquet at Buckingham Palace in November 2022.

Another X user praised Uzor’s style, saying: “Love the artist… she’s very stylish”. But they added: “The painting, while lovely… doesn’t look like the Princess of Wales…”

Last week saw the unveiling of the first official portrait of the King to be completed since his coronation.

Jonathan Yeo’s depiction of Charles shows the monarch bathed in a dramatic blood red hue.

King Charles III unveils Jonathan Yeo portrait
Jonathan Yeo and the King at the unveiling of the artist’s portrait of Charles (Aaron Chown/PA)

Commentators described it as like a poster for a horror movie, and others said it appeared as if the King was “burning in hell”.

It features a butterfly on his shoulder – at the King’s suggestion – reflecting his love of nature and the environment, and also his metamorphosis from prince to monarch.

But it was widely acknowledged as a good likeness of the King, with Yeo saying Queen Camilla remarked after looking at the painting of her husband: “Yes. You’ve got him.”

Kate’s portrait is set against a green-blue background –  a nod to Kate’s eye colour and the experience of being in a garden and on water, reflecting the princess’s love of rowing, Uzor said.

British-Zambian artist Hannah Uzor
Hannah Uzor took inspiration for the portrait from Kate’s cancer diagnosis video message (Tatler/PA)

Asked whether the princess’s recent cancer diagnosis video gave her a new perspective, Uzor said: “Without a doubt. All my portraits are made up of layers of a personality, constructed from everything I can find about them.”

Kate’s public address showed “a moment of dealing with something difficult, speaking from the heart, having the courage to tackle it head-on”, she added.

The princess did not sit for the portrait and Uzor researched photos of her to inform her work, saying she had found more than 189,000 images of Kate in a picture archive.

The artist expressed her admiration for the princess, who has stepped away from the public spotlight while she undergoes chemotherapy.

“She has really risen up to her role – she was born for this. She carries herself with such dignity, elegance and grace,” Uzor said.

Princess of Wales cancer announcement
The princess recording her message announcing her cancer diagnosis (BBC Studios/PA)

The painter, based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, is, like Kate, a mother of three, and added: “‘I sense with her the joy of motherhood.”

Uzor is the third artist to receive a commission from Tatler to paint a portrait of a member of the royal family.

She follows Sarah Knights, whose painting of the King appeared on the magazine’s July 2023 cover, and Oluwole Omofemi, whose tribute to Queen Elizabeth II graced the Platinum Jubilee issue in 2022.

The projects were inspired by England rugby star Maro Itoje and his business partner Khalil Akar, who created the Akoje Residency Programme in collaboration with the King’s Foundation, the charity set up by Charles.

The initiative offers opportunities for artists with African and Caribbean backgrounds to spend time at Dumfries House in Scotland to focus on their artistic skills.

Uzor gained prominence in 2020 with her portrait of Queen Victoria’s African goddaughter, Sara Forbes Bonetta.

It was part of a project to highlight historical figures of the African diaspora who had played a part in English history and was put on show by English Heritage.

– The full feature in the July issue of Tatler is available by digital download and on newsstands from May 30.