Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker once described George W. Bush’s portraits as bad paintings, but good art. That sounds about right. As someone interested in political portraiture, I’ve enjoyed the coverage of his recently-unveiled gallery of world leaders at his presidential library in Texas.
Unlike a lot of “professional” political portraits, which, as I’ve discussed previously, tend to be filled with tacky gimmicks and vain nonsense, Bush’s portraits, which only depict his subjects’ faces, seem intimate, human, and personal. You get a sense that Bush painted these trying to depict some essence of the leaders’ character, as well as their physical appearance, and I think that’s what makes them fairly compelling despite their roughness.
What makes them less impressive, however, is the fact that they are all very obviously drawn from internet pictures, often pictures from Wikipedia or ones that appear within the first two or three matches when you Google Image search their name.