What George W. Bush Was Thinking When He Painted Vladimir Putin

The former, who took up the hobby after leaving office, unveiled new paintings of world leaders on the Today Show on Friday.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
April 4, 2014, 4:43 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4867) }}

“There’s a Rem­brandt trapped in this body.”

That was the chal­lenge the former pres­id­ent George W. Bush presen­ted his paint­ing in­struct­or, Bush told NBC’s Today Show Fri­day morn­ing while un­veil­ing a col­lec­tion of his art­work, on dis­play at his pres­id­en­tial lib­rary in Dal­las. He wanted that in­ner paint­er to come out.

While the paint­ings don’t have the dra­mat­ic con­trasts and photo real­ism of, let’s say, “The Night­watch,” their pleas­ant pas­tels do, ac­cur­ately, de­pict their sub­jects: world lead­ers.

Bush has be­come one of the more in­ter­est­ing former pres­id­ents. Jimmy Carter builds houses. Bill Clin­ton fo­cuses on the de­vel­op­ing world. But George W. Bush paints. And every­one around him is sur­prised. “Who would’ve thought it?” the former pres­id­ent said dur­ing the in­ter­view, con­duc­ted by his daugh­ter, and NBC spe­cial cor­res­pond­ent, Jenna Bush Hager. We “nev­er knew,” his moth­er, former first lady Bar­bara Bush told the Today hosts, in re­ac­tion.

World lead­ers don’t know how to re­act to the hobby either. Star­ing at a paint­ing of Tony Blair, Bush told his daugh­ter, “I think I told him I was paint­ing him and brushed it off, so to speak.”

An art pun! This guy gets it.

The most note­worthy paint­ing of the morn­ing was one of Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin, not be­cause of its pass­able like­ness, but be­cause of the ana­lys­is from the artist. 

“As you know, our dear dog Barney had a spe­cial spot in my heart,” the former pres­id­ent said. “I in­tro­duced him to Putin; Putin kind of dissed him. ‘You call that a dog?’ A year later, your mom and I go to vis­it, and he’d say, ‘You like to meet my dog?’ Out bounds this huge hound. And Putin says ‘big­ger, stronger and faster than Barney.’ “

His daugh­ter pressed for more. “And you kind of thought, ‘Is this sym­bol­ic?’”

“I took it in. I didn’t re­act,” Bush said. “Wow, any­body who thinks ‘My dog is big­ger than your dog’ is an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter. And that paint­ing kind of re­flects that.”

What We're Following See More »
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
22 hours ago

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
10 hours ago

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.