George W. Bush paintings to debut at presidential library

George W. Bush, who signs his work '43,' will display more than two dozen original paintings in his first 'intentional' art show in April. As yet undisclosed: Did world leaders get the brush?

Stacie McChesney/NBC/AP
Former President George W. Bush (l.) showed off his painting and poked fun at his post-White House years during NBC's 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' in Burbank, Calif., on Nov. 19. He said he was inspired to take up painting after reading a Winston Churchill essay.

Anyone longing for a glimpse into the inner artist in George W. Bush won’t have to wait long. Visitors to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas can catch the first-ever gallery showing of the 43rd president's artwork, beginning this spring.

Beginning in April, the center will debut two dozen of the former president’s original portraits, signed "43," as part of a special exhibit entitled, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy." The exhibit will include “artifacts, photographs, and personal reflections to help illustrate the stories of relationships formed on the world stage,” the center announced Monday.

Rumors of Mr. Bush’s new hobby surfaced a year ago when a hacker, Guccifer, leaked images of two self-portraits depicting the 43rd president bathing and shaving, as well as a snapshot of him painting at an easel in his weight room.

Bush copped to his new pastime on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in November and presented an original portrait of the host. He told Leno that he decided to take up painting after reading Winston Churchill’s essay, “Painting as a Pastime,” and that he took weekly painting lessons from artist Gail Norfleet.

“I do take painting very seriously, it’s changed my life,” Bush told Leno.

The former president also shared copies of portraits featuring his celebrated Scottish terrier, Barney, who died in 2013, and a cat named Bob, “so I can remember how to spell it when I get old.”

While the center did not offer up many clues as to whom the featured portraits will portray, the theme of the exhibition suggests that portraits of world leaders could be in the mix.

However, the possibility of a canine appearance can’t be ruled out. After all, Bush once introduced Barney to Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Bush's next visit to Russia, President Putin introduced him to his own dog.

"A big black Labrador came charging across the lawn. With a twinkle in his eye, Vladimir said, 'Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney,' " Bush wrote in his 2010 memoir, “Decision Points.”

Bush isn't the first president to take up painting. Ulysses Grant studied painting at West Point, according to Robert Broadwater's 2012 biography. Dwight Eisenhower, also inspired by Churchill, took up painting late in life, according to the White House Historical Association. Jimmy Carter sold one of his original paintings for $250,000 at a charity auction last year, according to the Carter Center.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.