Back in October, we heard that George W. Bush’s retirement plan now includes painting dogs while out at his private ranch in Crawford, Texas. Now, thanks to hackers who’ve broken into the email accounts of Bush family members and close friends, we’ve been given a glimpse into a few works in progress by Central Texas’ favorite recluse. Just how good are these works? Let’s take a closer look with a comparison of two of his favorite subjects: himself and his dog.
The Smoking Gun has identified these two paintings as self-portraits of George W. Bush in the bathroom. In both of these portraits, the bathers suffer from an overall flatness, a likely result of being works-in-progress. Each lack Bush’s distinct “43” signature, found on his Barney portrait, and the dark tones do not appear to have been added to the shower painting. Looking to the tones in the tub painting, many of which are dark, this may simply be a result of inexperience. (Side note: Thanks to Marina Galperina of ANIMAL for pointing out the painting on the right’s similarity to Frida Kahlo’s What I Saw in the Water (1938).)
As for the painting’s skillfulness, the figure’s sloping, alpine back with large swathes of orangey-flesh and shoulder blades akin to breasts, reveal one of the few instances of modelling going on in this overall, flat painting. Bush is not yet a master of flesh, one of the most difficult forms to render due to its translucency, an observation made evident by his shoulder blades, which resemble boobs. It’s a fixable problem, but only if he can see it.
Those aren’t the only oddities found in these paintings. There’s the irregularly shaped tiles, which smoosh together when canvas space runs out, and a surreal stream of water that pours forth from the showerhead, but leaves no trace of water on the figure’s back. We think that’s because Bush intends the water to fall in front of him, but we’re not sure.
Title: Unknown (portrait of Barney Bush)
George W. Bush is clearly a wildlife painter. For all our reservations about his modeling of the human figure, we can’t get past how charming his dog portraits are. This one shows Bush’s true talents: an attention to curvature, light, and differentiated brush strokes. It’s the only dog painting we’ve seen by him, but so far, so good.