Since leaving the White House some six years earlier, former President George W. Bush has mostly laid low.  However, Bush has recently shown up on peoples’ radars once again, after he went on television to reveal his new hobby: painting.  Bush says he’s still learning the finer points of painting, and isn’t entirely sure if his artwork will ever be ready for release.  Nonetheless, at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, a new exhibit opened, called “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Diplomacy”.  The exhibit features some of Bush’s artwork, mainly paintings of world leaders with whom Bush worked over the course of his tenure as President.  Before the exhibit was unveiled, Bush claimed that none of his subjects had seen their portraits, but he felt that they would respond positively.  He painted these works in the spirit of friendship, and as a sign of respect to these leaders.

Vladimir Putin Painting

Bush’s painting of Vladimir Putin.

Earlier this week, the exhibit finally opened to the public, and reactions are already pouring in on the former President’s work.  So far, reviews are mixed.  At the opening of the exhibit, Bill Clinton made a couple good-natured  Jason Farago, of “the Guardian”, was not a big fan of Bush’s artwork, who seemed offended that the work had failed to offer any insight into either Bush’s character or the various leaders he painted.  The one painting in the exhibit that drew many people was that of Vladimir Putin, since it lead many to wonder what the relationship between the two men was.  Alistair Cooke of the Telegraph called the painting “unconventional and compelling”, and observed that it might suggest a strained relationship between the American and Russian leaders.  Adam Taylor of the Washington Post commented on how fascinating it was to watch Bush as a painter grapple with Putin’s identity, a man who he once claimed to understand so well.

Other people who viewed the paintings reacted much more positively.  Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post tweeted that she was a fan of Bush’s paintings, calling them “edgy”.  And while Obama hasn’t made a public statement about the works, according to an aide, he is a big fan of Bush’s artwork.  While it seems like a lot of people are having trouble separating Bush the President and Bush the painter, a lot of other people are impressed with this desire to pursue an interest that not too many people expected him to have.