George W. Bush is easily one of the most controversial artists of our time. Think Banksy—if he were a war criminal. And now, thanks to Architectural Digest, which features the 43rd president’s “Serene Texas Retreat” in its August issue, we get to see where he creates his masterpieces.Architectural Digest wouldn’t make the image available to The Daily Beast, but you can see it right here, on their website.
“Mr. Bush sometimes paints at an easel in the enclosed breezeway, where the windows are replaced with screens in warm weather; the ottoman and the cushions on the sea-grass chairs are covered in Sunbrella fabrics,” the magazine informs.
One could easily envision a paint-covered Bush standing at the easel, one hand holding a brush, the other resting thoughtfully on his chin, while he gazes out the window.
On the easel sits a depiction of sun shining through trees, illuminating the grass below. Leaning against the windows are another painting of a tree, one of a cat in a cardboard box, and one I can’t quite make out that appears to be a pond encircled by some rocks.
Bush’s art is also used to decorate the home: Two portraits of dogs adorn the study.
Bush’s hobby was first revealed in a 2012 New York Magazine profile of his brother Jeb, which detailed that in his quiet post-presidency life, “he’s taken up painting, making portraits of dogs and arid Texas landscapes.” The publication quoted a former aide divulging that they found it “stunning that he has the patience to sit and take instruction and paint.”
Bush’s actual paintings were not revealed to the world until the following year, when the hacker Guccifer (now jailed) broke into several email accounts associated with the former president and leaked his findings to the media.
Bush depicted himself standing in the shower, his face reflected in a small, circular mirror; and in the bath, his knees and toes poking out of the water. A photograph showed Bush hunched over an easel in what appears to be a home gym.
The self-portraits in particular confounded the art world, who reviewed them in unflattering terms like “naïve” and “pedestrian.”
But the haters could not stop the rise of George W. Bush: artist. In April, an exhibit of his paintings, The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy, opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University, featuring dozens of portraits including Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Junichiro Koizumi, the former prime minister of Japan. Bush was modest about his works, offering that he is “not a great artist.”
It was not long before people noticed that Bush had based his portraits on the top Google Image search results of his subjects—often from Wikipedia pages. Critic Greg Allen wrote, “by outsourcing the editorial decisions about the source images to Google and Wikipedia, the rest of the paintings’ decisions can be claimed by The Decider himself.”