George W. Bush's Putin Painting Stirs Interest

Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 01:13 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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The unveiling of President George W. Bush’s paintings at his presidential library on Friday will feature a surprising, and controversial, figure – Russian President Vladimir Putin, the New York Daily News reported.

"The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy" exhibit will "explore the personal relationships President George W. Bush forged with world leaders to shape international policy and advance American interests abroad," according to a February news release issued by the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Putin’s portrait and 23 others will be on display, along with Bush’s personal reflections and photographs, to give visitors insight into the behind-the-scenes bonds he formed with the subjects of his work. Other world leaders Bush has painted include British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama, according to the Today Show, which will air a segment about the exhibit Friday morning.

Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, interviewed her father for the package. None of the leaders have seen their portraits, signed 43, the former president told his daughter in a teaser for the segment.

"But I hope they take it in the spirit in which these were painted in," the former president said. "That was the spirit of friendship. And you know, I admire them as leaders and was willing to give it a shot in terms of getting people to see how I felt about them."

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In 2001, Bush made headlines for declaring that he had looked Putin – who has been characterized by U.S. lawmakers as corrupt and a bully – in the eye and "was able to get a sense of his soul."

The Putin rendering is garnering extra attention since it comes during deteriorating tensions between the United States and Russia following the latter’s invasion of Crimea.

Former First Lady Laura Bush said that her husband has been very disciplined since taking up his hobby, according to the Dallas Morning News. And she revealed that her favorite painting he’s done is the one titled 'Bob the Cat.'

But she admitted that she was less than thrilled with the portrait he did of her. “It still needs some work,” she said.

Asked what he had learned in his short career as an artist, the president added, ‘Don’t paint your wife.”

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