George W. Bush’s portrait exhibition of fellow world leaders goes on display Saturday in Dallas, Texas.
According to The New York Times, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy” includes over two dozen paintings of the former president’s contemporaries, including portraits of Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, and the Dalai Lama. Displayed alongside the paintings are photos of Bush and his subjects, quotes from Bush, and quotes from Bush’s subjects about Bush.
The History Channel interviewed Bush and produced a seven minute video that will greet visitors to the exhibit at Southern Methodist University’s library in Dallas. “I spent a lot of time on personal diplomacy and I befriended leaders,” Mr. Bush told the History Channel. “I learned about their families and their likes and dislikes, to the point where I felt comfortable painting them.”
George W. Bush began painting two years ago after reading Winston Churchill’s essay, “Painting as a Pastime,” suggested to him by Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis. Under instructor Gail Norfleet, Bush began painting his pets, Barney the dog and Bob the cat, landscapes, and self portraits.
For an amateur painter, Bush’s paintings have been well received. Bush showed his paintings to Hilary Clinton on Airforce One last December to much delight. Last November he appeared on the Jay Leno show to discuss his paintings and present the host with a painting of Jay Leno himself. Before showing off a few paintings to Hilary Clinton and Jay Leno, the public best knew Bush for the self-portraits leaked by a hacker early last year.
By the time Bush appeared on “The Tonight Show” he had already begun painting world leaders at the suggestion of an S. M. U. art instructor. “The Art of Leadership,” the first official exhibit for amateur painter Bush, focuses on his diplomacy style and his unique interaction with the world leaders he has painted.
“I watched one of the best at personal diplomacy in my dad,” he said in his History Channel interview. “He was amazing about befriending people where there may not be common interests, and I emulated that.”
During his presidency, George W. Bush was noted for his lack of appreciation of the arts, having rushed through the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 30 minutes flat. Now he can linger at art exhibits for hours studying paint strokes, according to The New York Times.
“You can teach an old dog new tricks,” Bush said. “I expect I’ll be painting till I drop. And my last stroke, and I’m heading into the grave, I wonder what color it will be?”