What do you do for an encore after you’ve been President of the United States? While some former presidents have chosen to stay in the national or international spotlight working on any number of projects, others have preferred to move into a quieter, less public life. George W. Bush took up oil painting as a way to augment the outdoor sports activities he loves, such as biking and golf.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH WITH AMERICA'S FIRST LADY LAURA WELCH BUSH
President Bush says he was inspired by try painting after he read an essay on art written by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. His intention was to develop a new personal avocation, and he began to take lessons in painting with oils, a particularly difficult medium. He painted a variety of subjects, including a dog, a watermelon, a horse and a golf course scene. He also painted a cat that belonged to his famous mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush.
The former president also tried out a few more “risqué” subjects, painting self-portraits of himself in the bathtub (only his legs) and in the shower (only his back). He said the bathroom paintings were done to “shock” his art teacher. He also painted a portrait of his wife, Laura, who was reportedly less than enthusiastic about the result. His response? “Never paint your wife or mother.”
Our 43rd President’s new painting career received public attention when a hacker tapped into the email account of his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, hijacking copies of the “bathroom” paintings. They went viral. No surprise.
A PRISTINE PIECE OF OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA AS SELECTED BY GEORGE W. BUSH AND THE FIRST LADY
Meanwhile, George Bush continues to paint, creating a collection of portraits of 30 world leaders with whom he had dealings – some quite notorious – while serving his two terms as President. The collection was unveiled in a showing at the George W. Bush Library and Museum in Dallas, open to the public from April through June of 2014. The exhibition was entitled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” because Bush always said he believed in the power of diplomacy in addressing the world’s problems.
Using Google Images as inspiration, he painted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Dalai Lama, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Afghan president Hamid Karzai as part of the collection. Perhaps his most talked-about painting was of Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president who is back in power and recapturing headlines today.
Art critics and political journalists have commented freely on the Putin portrait. Alistair Cooke of The Guardian described it as “unconventional and compelling,” and Adam Taylor of the Washington Post said, “I’d argue that it is a really good painting aesthetically. What’s really fascinating is to watch Bush grapple with the identity of Putin, a man he once claimed to understand well.”
GEORGE W. BUSH ENJOYS OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES, SUCH AS GOLFING, WITH HIS CLOSE-KNIT FAMILY
More recently, George Bush unveiled an oil painting of himself and his father, former president George H. W. Bush. Bush the younger said, “I was very proud to be standing next to a man I admire greatly.” He wanted to depict his father’s “gentle soul,” but he admitted he had particular difficulty getting the noses just right as he painted.
Noting that it isn’t easy being a former President, Bush has been quoted as saying, “You get this sense of longing that you remain stimulated.” He says his oil painting hobby has help him fill that void. However future historians choose to remark on George Bush’s painting talent, it seems he has fulfilled his dream of becoming a well-known portrait painter.
RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX - HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired numerous pieces of official White House china. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. His collection is the first or second largest privately-owned collection of White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.