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President Bush’s book of paintings praised by art critics

16th March 2017

Former US president George W. Bush has published a book of his very own paintings, entitled ‘Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors’, which includes over 60 oil painting portraits of US servicemen and women. 

Following his term in office, President Bush helped veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, with his paintings the faces of those he came to know. All finances generated from the book will go to the initiative. 

Published on February 28th, the book has already become a best-seller, with one of America’s leading art critics praising President Bush’s work. 

The Washington Post has positioned the book at the top of its list of best sellers, with chief art critic Philip Kennicott describing the work as “sophisticated” and “warm”, showing the former president honing his craft. 

He said: “No matter what you think of George W. Bush, he demonstrates in this book and in these paintings virtues that are sadly lacking at the top of the American political pyramid today: curiosity, compassion, the commitment to learn something new and the humility to learn it in public.

“There is ample evidence that the former president is more humble and curious than the Swaggering President Bush he enacted while in office. And his curiosity about art is not only genuine but relatively sophisticated.”

With each portrait, the former president writes about the individual and the hardships they have endured, including their military service, injuries sustained in the line of duty, and the struggle to recover, both physically and psychologically. For example, he writes about Cpl. David Smith and his recovery from a suicide attempt, explaining that he learned to confront his trauma and understand and accept it so that he could build a new life. 

President Bush says he turned to painting after being inspired by the work of Lucian Freud, Wayne Thiebaud, Jamie Wyeth, Ray Turner, Fairfield Porter and Joaquín Sorolla.

In the book’s introduction, he writes: “I’m not sure how the art in this volume will hold up to critical eyes. After all, I’m a novice. What I am sure of is that each painting was done with a lot of care and respect.” 

The original paintings are currently on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Exhibition wall text from President Bush explains that the painting were created to honour the service of the military men and women to the country and to show the former president’s respect for their sacrifice and courage. 

Earlier this month, Mr Bush told NBC’s Today show: “I know each person I painted. I was thinking about their backgrounds, their service, their injuries and their recovery.”

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