The George W. Bush Presidential Center has announced that “more than two dozen never-before-exhibited portraits painted by President Bush” will go on display as part of the special exhibition Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy, opening in early April.
So far, the former president has depicted dogs, cats, and late-night comedian Jay Leno. And the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s 2013 commemorative Christmas ornament was a framed, untitled painting of a cardinal that Bush originally painted for Ambassador Warren Tichenor.
Gawker has called the 43rd president’s paintings “awkward” and “simple”, while Jerry Saltz, New York magazine’s art critic, wrote that “The reclusion and seclusiveness of the pictures evoke the quietude (though not the insight, quality, or genius) of certain Chardin still lifes.”
Bush told Jay Leno last year that he told his art teacher, “There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body…your job is to find it.” He also said that he was inspired to start painting after reading an essay by Winston Churchill, who found solace in depicting landscapes.
In fact, the former British prime minister also inspired President Dwight D. Eisenhower to take up painting, even before assuming office. “I’ve had a lot of fun since I took it up, in my somewhat miserable way, your hobby of painting,” Eisenhower wrote Churchill in 1950, according to the White House Historical Association. “I have had no instruction, have no talent, and certainly no justification for covering nice, white canvas with the kind of daubs that seem constantly to spring from my brushes.”