'Diana deserved better': Critics savage 'frumpy' new statue

·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Prince William and Prince Harry unveil Princess Diana Statue at Kensington Palace

Art critics have labelled the new statue of Diana "horrible", "flat" and "spiritless" as they say the late princess "deserved better". 

Prince William and Prince Harry united on Thursday afternoon to unveil a long-awaited statue of their mother, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

The brothers announced plans for a permanent memorial for her in 2017 as they marked 20 years since her death. But the statue has been delayed, in part by coronavirus restrictions.

Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times chief art critic, said the statue featured a "frumpy 1980s outfit", calling the skirt "sedate" and suggesting "Laura Ashley has made it on to a public monument".

She said: "The new Diana statue has a devotional aura. Perhaps this is (what those who) worshipped the princess would want — which may in turn be precisely why this statue is, aesthetically speaking, so horrible."

She continued: "It speaks of generic sentiment, not any more stirring emotion."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley poses with his Diana, Princess of Wales statue in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, following the unveiling on July 1, 2021 in London, England. Today would have been the 60th birthday of Princess Diana, who died in 1997. At a ceremony here today, her sons Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveiled a statue in her memory. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley with his Diana, Princess of Wales statue in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace. (Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021, which would have been her 60th birthday. - Princes William and Harry set aside their differences on Thursday to unveil a new statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
William and Harry united to unveil the statue of their mother, on 1 July, 2021, which would have been her 60th birthday. (Dominic Lipinski/AFP)

Read more: Diana's sculptor reveals why statue features three children around her

The critic said Diana "deserved something much better" also concluding that a female sculptor should have been chosen over Ian Rank-Broadley.

Editor of the British Art Journal Robin Simon told the Daily Mail the statue would not be to everyone's taste, but said it was not "worse" than "some truly hideous statues" of the late princess.

He added: "If at some distant date the identity of the woman in this group were to be forgotten, this sculpture would endure as an image of human love that anyone can understand.

"It is no wonder this project has been four years in the making, accompanied by differences of opinion between William and Harry."

He added: "This sculpture may not be perfect, but in the circumstances it is one heck of an achievement."

Piers Morgan tweeted: "Let’s be honest - it’s not a great statue of Diana."

Replying, former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell added: "I wanted to like it so did positive immediate reaction. But no, doesn’t get the character, warmth or beauty."

Watch: Sculptor: Princes made 'huge contribution' to Diana statue

Read more: Princes William and Harry shoulder to shoulder at unveiling of statue of Diana

Alastair Sooke, chief art critic at The Daily Telegraph, said the statue did not show warmth but that Diana was "combative and confrontational, not maternal", and suggested there is "something distinctly masculine about that stance".

He added: "The decision to appoint Rank-Broadley, an establishment artist...always struck me as timid, unimaginative, and conventional. Surely, Diana, that sparky outsider who despised fussy officialdom, would have wanted to be immortalised by someone less out of touch with contemporary art?"

However he added a defence of the sculptor, who he pointed out had an "impossible" task, because anything he created would have been criticised in some way.

In The Guardian Jonathan Jones said: "It is a religious image that shamelessly plays up to the most mawkish aspects of Diana worship."

He added: "Flat, cautious realism softened by a vague attempt to be intimate makes this a spiritless and characterless hunk of nonsense."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: The statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, by artist Ian Rank-Broadley, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace. The bronze statue depicts the princess surrounded by three children to represent the
The bronze statue depicts the princess surrounded by three children to represent the "universality and generational impact" of her work. (Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: The statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, by artist Ian Rank-Broadley, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace. The bronze statue depicts the princess surrounded by three children to represent the
Beneath the statue is a plinth engraved with her name and the date of the unveiling, and in front is a paving stone engraved with an extract inspired by The Measure of A Man poem. (Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Some were taken with the statue though, with royal biographer Penny Junor telling MailOnline: "I think it looks stunning. And I love the larger than life size and the fact that she has three children with her. It looks like a magnificent piece of art."

Rebecca English, the Daily Mail royal editor, tweeted: "I was lucky enough to have a tour of the garden after the ceremony today and saw the new statue close up. I have to say, I actually quite like it. 

"Diana’s beauty and charisma were such undefinable qualities in life, it must have been challenging to capture them in bronze."

On GB News, Rebecca Hutson said: "It was different to how I expected but captures her in all her maternal [ways]."

Presenter Kirsty Gallacher added: "Children were so close to her heart, with the charities she was involved in.

"For me it epitomised Diana, who I adored."

They both praised the outfit she is depicted wearing.

Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley,(L), Earl Spencer (C) and Lady Sarah McCorquodale look on after the unveiling of a statue of Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021, which would have been her 60th birthday. - Princes William and Harry set aside their differences on Thursday to unveil a new statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley,(L), Earl Spencer (C) and Lady Sarah McCorquodale look on after the unveiling of a statue of Princess Diana. (Dominic Lipinski/AFP)
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021, which would have been her 60th birthday. - Princes William and Harry set aside their differences on Thursday to unveil a new statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry looked in good spirits as he revisited his childhood home to unveil the statue. (Dominic Lipinski/AFP)

Public reaction has been slightly more mixed, though online commenters have not held back.

"I really wanted to love this, was even excited to see it - (but) it’s so bad, like a cheap parody of a Catholic saint," said Dr John Austin Crosby, an NHS doctor from the north west. 

Some suggested the statue looked more like former prime minister Theresa May.

Writer Justin Myers said: "Sorry but the Diana statue should be wearing the revenge dress."

Tweeter Dafydd said: "It doesn’t matter what we think, William and Harry chose the design in memory of their mother. So let’s be kind...we can all have an opinion or a view. But it really doesn’t matter what we think."

The statue is in the Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace and is on view to the public from Friday, 2 July, included in the entrance ticket.

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