Presidential Portraits: Middle Eastern Leaders Seen through a Bush!

Published June 2nd, 2014 - 10:52 GMT

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Bush started painting
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Image 1 of 12: Bush started painting in 2012, three years after leaving office, inspired by an essay on painting by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill . Sir Winston picked up a brush at age 40, showing real talent. Said Dubya, “I’d never lifted a brush before. I’d never been next to paint. So I gave it a whirl.” You decide if he has the right stuff!

Barney
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Image 1 of 12: W started out painting pets. One of his favorite models was his Scottish terrier Barney, who died last year at age 12. "Barney was by my side during our 8 years in the White House," Bush wrote, "He never discussed politics and was always a faithful friend. Laura and I will miss our pal." Barney even had his own website!

portraits
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Image 1 of 12: US comedian Jon Stewart agrees with an art critic who finds former President George W. Bush's portraits to be sincere, earnest, almost childlike. “That's our man!” Stewart said on his Daily Show. “Our sincere, earnest, almost childlike 2-term president. You know, I think that may have been his campaign slogan at one time,” Stewart added.

Bush
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Image 1 of 12: Bush said his favorite painting is of his dad, George H. W. Bush (this exhibition coincides with the 25th anniversary of the elder Bush's presidency). His mother’s comical reaction on seeing that portrait was: "That's my husband?!?" Mrs. Bush said she will "absolutely not" pose for her son. She joked, "As good as he is, it might look like me!"

Bush paintings
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Image 1 of 12: Saudi’s King Abdullah travelled to Texas in 2002 to meet the president at Bush’s ranch outpost, and U.S. press went wild lampooning the leaders’ warm greetings which included decidedly un-Texan handholding & kissing. In 2008, the king hosted W at the royal ranch in Jenadriyah. No word if the horse-loving leaders remained kissing cowboys!

Maliki
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Image 1 of 12: Bush called Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki "a good man with a difficult job". Maliki has said he is "a friend of the United States, but... not America's man in Iraq". Not all Iraqis feel the love: during a 2008 press conference, journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi yelled, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog" and threw his shoes at Bush!

Pervez Musharraf
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Image 1 of 12: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the American Prez have had a complicated connection - tagged as the “Bush-Mush relationship” by some American scholars and considered more a bond of convenience than a genuine friendship. Bush painted Pervez in a suit, leaving the General’s military uniform in the closet.

Ehud Olmert
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Image 1 of 12: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who also served 2 terms as mayor of Jerusalem, had participated in the 2007 Annapolis Peace Conference which Bush headed. Olmert was recently sentenced to 6 years in prison on bribery charges in the biggest corruption scandal in Israel’s history. He has plenty of time to pose now!

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
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Image 1 of 12: Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The men met during 2008 talks at Camp David, but aren’t known for a particularly close bond. In fact, Bush painted most of his portraits based on the first-to-surface, easiest-to-find photos of his subjects that he could Google!

Karza
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Image 1 of 12: Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s portrait is a highlight of the exhibition; a fine depiction of a serious man with an intense and intelligent gaze. Former Afghan officials say that the two leaders shared a personal warmth, particularly in the early days of their relationship, that weathered tensions between their respective administrations.

Bush from behind
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Image 1 of 12: Alfred Hitchcock would agree this presidential self-portrait-in-a-shower-stall is a bit “psycho”! It’s a coy depiction of Bush from behind, his back muscles slack and drooping from his shoulders. Let’s pin this on novice painting technique and not anything of chiropractic concern!

bush shower
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Image 1 of 12: And if the shower scene didn’t shock, take a peek at “Dub in a tub”! Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair snarkily wondered if the artist is trying to “come clean” about his presidential performance in these paintings. A devout Christian, maybe all this water action is meant to evoke baptism?

Act quick if you want to catch a first-time art exhibit by former US President George W. Bush! Entitled, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” the show includes portraits of 24 world leaders - including six of his Middle Eastern besties!  It remains on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas through next week.

“There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body. Your job is to unleash him,” Bush told his oil painting instructor when he decided to try a new hobby after leaving office in 2009.

Some of his paintings, mostly cats and dogs and the odd self-portrait, had previously been released for public view.  But a few more cringe-worthy pieces - including ones of the artist in a bathtub and shower! - were leaked online by a hacker last year. At the time, Bush said he felt that much of his artwork wasn't ready for public viewing (um, do you think?) - but apparently had a change of heart, and the current exhibition was conceived.

He said he hoped the subjects of his paintings like what they see. “I hope they take it in the spirit in which these were painted,” Bush said. “That was the spirit of friendship. I admire them as leaders and was willing to give it a shot in terms of getting people to see how I felt about them.”

Bush, the 43rd American president, signs his works “43.” He quipped, “I tell people that the signature on my paintings is worth more than the paintings.”

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News last year, Bush added that painting gives him an opportunity to create. He also reflected on what others think of his work.

“People are surprised,'” said Bush, “Of course, some people are surprised I can even read.”

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