It’s finally here: George W. Bush’s first solo show as a painter opens today at his presidential museum in Texas. Fittingly for the dynastic family, the world’s first look at the work comes via a Today show interview with his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, who got a tour of gallery, which features 24 oil portraits of world leaders. First up, right through the door: father and son.
A teary-eyed W. talked of painting his father, “a gentle soul” and a “great listener,” but admitted he hasn’t shown the tribute to his parents. “I didn’t dare show it to him because then Mother would see it,” said the 43rd president of the United States. “And then of course — no telling what she would say.”
Other highlights include Bush’s diplomatic buddy Tony Blair. “I think I told Tony I was painting, and he brushed it off,” said Bush. “That was an art pun.”
And Vladimir Putin, who probably thinks painting is for pansies (or whatever the more offensive Russian word for that is):
“I wanted to make sure that the last chapters of my life were full,” said Bush to his daughter. “Painting would occupy not only space but open my mind.”
But it all started with an iPad app called Penultimate. The early work:
“There’s a Rembrandt stuck in this body,” Bush told the woman who would become his instructor, “and it’s your job to unleash it.”
The results are so-so. “I’m not a great artist,” he said. “I don’t want people to think I’m a great artist.”
In addition to the portraits, Bush continues to work on landscapes:
And, of course, his pets:
The one person we never see interpreted artistically: Laura, who appears cautiously amused. “Don’t paint your wife,” said the artist. Putin, he can handle; the women in his life, not so much.