Former US President George W. Bush's portraits have become well known for their bold colours and august subjects - but do they deserve an exhibition at one of the country's most prestigious venues? Philip Kennicott argues it is an abdication of responsibility.
'Until now, the “George W. Bush is an amateur painter” narrative was innocuous, even charming. After retiring from the presidency, Bush was inspired by the example of Winston Churchill, who turned to making art for distraction after the disgrace of his disastrous role in the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. So Bush, too, took up the brush, and started putting paint on canvas, working mainly on portraits of world leaders and, later, on images of wounded veterans, whose cause he has championed.
It helped that Bush isn’t a bad artist. He shows a taste for bold colors and heavy impasto, laying on the paint thickly in a way that suggests he has studied the work of Van Gogh and perhaps the Fauvists, too. That he focused his portraits on wounded vets also muted any criticism he was trafficking on his celebrity as an ex-president to boost his new career as an artist. Of course, Bush doesn’t need the money, and he isn’t pretending to be a great artist. In the introduction to “Portraits of Courage,” a catalogue of his portraits, he wrote eloquently and humbly about his concern for the well-being of wounded veterans. Proceeds from the sale of that book are being given to a military and veterans initiative at Bush’s presidential center.
Here, it seemed, was a story to counter the reflexive cynicism of today’s broken political culture.' ... Keep reading on The Washington Post