Former President George W. Bush is at it again, and by this I mean he is on a mission, proud to show the world what he can do with a paintbrush! This time he is taking a stab at world leaders, not in the literal sense but in the painterly sense.
His exhibition opens today in his home state of Texas and the world press gathered yesterday for a press view of his output. Last year we reported that President Bush had been painting on the sly, with a teacher in Florida and this proves just how serious he is, at getting down in applying paint to canvas.
“The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” explores the personal relationships Bush forged with world leaders during his presidency. “I think their reaction is going to be, ‘Whoa, George Bush is a painter’,” quipped Bush in an interview with his journalist daughter Jenna Bush Hager which was shown on NBC television’s “Today” program on Friday. He added: “I hope they take it in the spirit in which these were painted, and that was a spirit of friendship, and that I admired them as leaders and was willing to give it a shot in terms of getting people to see how I felt about them.” None of the portraits have been seen publicly before or, for that matter, by the yet-to-be-identified subjects themselves. “I’m sure when they heard that I was painting them… they’re going to say, ‘Whoa, I look forward to seeing a stick figure he painted of me’,” said Bush, 67, who took up painting after leaving the White House in January 2009. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said the exhibition would run through June 3. “Today” an American breakfast programme showed a clip of the interview on Thursday and posted it on www.today.com website.
Last year, Bush explained to his art teacher that he wanted to unleash his inner Rembrandt, and the results are now on public display: a deeply personal gallery of world leaders, focusing on the art of personal diplomacy. His portrait of his friend Tony Blair, which is bereft of the former British prime minister’s trademark toothy smile, was intended to portray “compassion, strength and reliability”. “He’s a pretty good painter. I don’t in any way want to say it’s great art or anything, but he’s not bad,” Lawrence Weschler, author of True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney, told the BBC.
“It’s just weird that this guy who once had this incredible power is not interested in writing about what he did or justifying it,” Mr Weschler added. “No, he’s doing paintings of people he once knew back in the old days.” Bush says he just wants to carry on in the tradition of his hero Sir Winston Churchill (also a mediocre painter). We guess it helps him relax and reflect on his years in power!
But do we want to humanise him? No way, that just wouldn’t be fun!
Food for thought: Why would a bad President make a good artist?
The exhibition will run until June 3 at the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum, on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.