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Former President George W. Bush spoke at an energy conference last fall in Dallas. He’ll show off his artwork Friday.

LM Otero • Associated Press,

Brush with fame: Bush shares his paintings of world leaders

  • Article by: Peter Baker
  • New York Times
  • April 3, 2014 - 7:47 PM

– If George W. Bush, budding artist, has learned one lesson about his newfound passion, it is this: “Don’t paint your wife.”

The former president will show off two dozen paintings in his first art exhibit, a gallery of world leaders whom he has captured on canvas.

But if it is diplomatically delicate to capture the likeness of, say, Tony Blair or Vladimir Putin, it turns out to be safer than trying Laura Bush.

“It needs some work,” Laura Bush said of her husband’s portrait of her during an interview of the former first couple conducted by their daughter Jenna Bush, an NBC correspondent, for the network’s “Today” show. The interview is to air Friday, but the network released a partial transcript and a video Thursday.

The interview marks the opening of “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” to be on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Some of Bush’s early post-presidential paintings, including self-portraits in the bath and shower, as well as images of his pets, unintentionally became public when family e-mail was hacked. Bush also gave Jay Leno a portrait of the late-night host during an appearance last year on “The Tonight Show.”

But Friday will be the first time George Bush has revealed his work en masse for a general audience. None of the personal paintings will be in the exhibit. Instead, he focused on the leaders he worked with during eight tumultuous years in office. Some of the portraits will be accompanied by artifacts, photographs and personal reminiscences.

George Bush said none of his subjects had seen their portraits. Asked by his daughter what they may think, he said, “I think they’re going to be, ‘Wow, George Bush is a painter.’ ”

He added, laughing: “I mean I’m sure when they heard that I was painting them, if they had, they’re going to say, well, I look forward to seeing the stick figure he painted.

“But I hope they take it in the spirit in which these were painted, and that was the spirit of friendship and that I admire them as leaders and was willing to give it a shot.”

The former president expressed irritation that some of his other paintings were put on the Web by hackers.

“It’s an invasion of one’s privacy and, yeah, I was annoyed,” he said. “And nor do I want my paintings to get out. And I found it very interesting the first painting that came out was the one I painted of myself in the bathtub. I did so because I wanted to kind of shock my instructor.”

“And Mom,” Jenna Bush added.

“And Mom,” he agreed.

© 2014 Star Tribune