Today was the first meeting of the year of the Freelance Media Group. We meet at the Groucho Club, the private hang out of the Very Important People who inhabit Media Land. Sometimes you'll spot a celebrity or two which is all good fun but you must not, whatever you do, engage them in conversation.
Anyway there is fat chance of that happening since we meet in a room up several flights of stairs away from all the schmoozing. Here I found myself sitting next to a journalist who revealed that she covers royal stories and she politely agreed when I pointlessly gushed 'Ooh, you'll be busy when the baby arrives.' Then I asked her what she thought of the Duchess of Cambridge's new portrait by Paul Emsley on display at the National Portrait Gallery which in the last few days has been subjected to a barrage of criticism. She assured me that it looks much better 'in the flesh' than it did in the papers. So I decided to check it out for myself since we were just a short walk away from the gallery.
My first impression was that it is far too big. It is more-or-less 3ft x 4ft. I think it would have had more impact if it had been half that size. I imagine it could be quite terrifying receiving a commission to paint a royal portrait and maybe that is why Catherine has ended up looking a bit lifeless. I much preferred the portrait further along the corridor of Mo Mowlam (a British MP and Labour minister) painted by John Keane in 2001. This portrait is full of life, you can see the brush strokes and although Mo Mowlam is in repose you can get a sense of her vitality. Poor Catherine by contrast doesn't appear to have any vitality. However if you turn your head slightly you can see her engagement photos hanging in a neighbouring gallery where you can see that she is clearly a very lively young woman.
This is just the first official portrait of Catherine and no doubt in time we will be able to chart the progress of her royal life in future portraits in the same way we can with Her Majesty the Queen who appears to have sat for more portraits than some of us have had hot dinners - let's hope they might have a bit more life in them.