George W. Bush’s Self Portraits


Allegedly painted by George W. Bush. Revealed by a hacker.

NY Mag's Jerry Saltz finds something to like about the former president:

Both border on the visionary, the absurd, the perverse, the frat boy. Each echoes the same isolation in small space. Rumination without guilt. Thought without dark nights. The light in each is soft, subtle, embracing, even oscillating. As if the unreal has become a companion to the painter. The first depicts a man with gray hair standing in a shower looking at himself and us in a small shaving mirror. We see him only from behind, from the waist up. The shoulders are slightly rounded. The features are Bush's. In the mirror is that stare, that empty, happy gaze. His eyes look slightly to our left, as if he can't meet our own gaze and is in a world of his own. The glass shower door echoes the well-to-do nature of the portrait of the stone home. But also the layers of visibility, transparency, fragility.

The other picture is the strangest, and the strongest. From over his shoulder, we see Bush looking at himself in the bathtub. This means we've seen two images of him cleansing himself, in warm water. It's already enough to set you off on fantasies of aloofness, aloneness, exile, and hiding. Bush regards himself. Yet nothing untoward is showing or seen. He is chaste and untouched even when alone. We see his knobby knees and his toes peeking up above the running water. A Freudian will have to tell us why the water is running in both pictures. Private baptism; trying to get clean; infantile ecstasies; purification rituals?



  1. MikeH says

    Well, first of all let me say I think he was a horrible president… second, I’m definitely not an artist, but I think it is pretty cool that he paints – who the hell knows what the paintings mean.. good for him!

    For Goodness sake though, switch from AOL to GMail and get Google Authenticator… you are a former POTUS … that makes you interesting for hackers…

  2. Caliban says

    The bathtub painting needs a rubber ducky and some fart bubbles to really capture Dubya’s inner man.

  3. esperando says

    These paintings confirm what I’ve always suspected, but had a hard time accepting: Bush really is just a thoroughly naive simpleton. When he was president, it was far easier to hate him and see cynical motives behind what he was doing, but I really think he was just an incurious idiot who was easily led.

  4. Mike in nyc says

    Now Bush yet another thing in common with Hilter; both are War Criminals and Bad Artists. Its Almost poetic.

  5. says

    I found George W. Bush’s presidency abhorrant, and I detest his politics. That said, if the account published on The Smoking Gun is true, I think that these images are ill-gotten gains, that the former president is probably the victim of a crime, and that it is probably unethical to publish these images.

  6. Caliban says

    OK, as an artist I have to say I actually like the bathtub painting. It’s in a naive style but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

    It’s kind of interesting from a psychological standpoint he chose to depict himself washing at least twice, cleaning, purifying, whatever. A bit of Lady Macbeth going on there.

    The shower painting is… odd. The way the figure is standing it’s impossible that you’d see the face in the mirror. Sure, his style is naive so that sort of thing isn’t really unusual, but there’s something revealing about it too.

  7. eekahil says

    Remember he supposedly wrote a poem for Laura? Something about that “lump in the bed”.
    A real rainy-sauce feller!

  8. Dback says

    Well, he’s a Cancer (I know, insert punchline), so it’s intriguing that both feature water, as that’s the water sign of the Crab.

    Also like a crab, he’s self-protecting–neither picture is a full-on portrait, and even though he’s supposedly naked, he’s surrounded by a hard, protective exterior (a shower, a bathtub), and he only reveals bits of himself.

    Also, since we’re doing Freud 101, these paintings (which I have to admit I like) show a certain narcissism–he’s only interested in what’s directly in front of him, in a very limited world-view. Nothing ‘large” or generous about them, or him–no wide-open spaces, no panoramic vistas. (Clinton would probably paint the Grand Canyon, a or a view of the ocean or stars.) They say to me, oddly like John Lennon wrote, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” (And the chunk of him we do see is nicely muscled, again underlining a certain vanity/narcissism.)

    Message I take from these pieces: He’s secure, he’s safe, he’s uncomplicated (?), and the rest of the hubbub is far away from him. He wants, or cares, for nothing but himself, in his own little moist echo chamber. (If that’s not metaphorical!)

  9. Hank says

    The way the mirror is angled in the shower painting , it doesn’t look like it’s reflecting his own face, but another man watching him from behind. And the weird way he painted his shoulder blades makes them look like senior boobs, or buttocks- his own buttocks, that he cropped out of the image. Yup, that painting says not only “Cleanse me,” but also “Take me from behind.”

  10. dh says

    Who knew that the worst president ever would make decent paintings.

    Sure, the anatomy and shading are a little crude, and he’s not the best draftsman, but the colors are great, and way he breaks up the space is surprisingly sophisticated.

    Saltz’s interpretation is dead on.

  11. Jacknasty says

    If only that Vienna art school had accepted his application…

    Oh, wait, sorry! Wrong mass murderer!

  12. V-8 says

    I do not like these, but I wonder if he works from memory or photographs… if photographs, then we could assume there r two people in the shower, possibly two men…

  13. Harold says

    I don’t know what to think or how much thought to actually give it. We’re looking at work obtained by hacking, supposedly done by someone of seemingly little intelligence and even less moral fortitude, reviewed by someone that, to whatever extent he ever found it, has long since lost his way. The pieces are interesting, but I just don’t feel like I want to spend much time on them.

  14. thom says

    First of all, I admit that I DETESTED this man. He was the WORST president at least in my 66 year lifetime. What is shown here (if it is real, and oddly, I believe it is) it divulges a litany of things about this man.There is little shown about Bush, the man in these pieces of “art”. That is telling in itself. Just snatches and pieces of a man who desparately wanted to be a President, but knew NOTHING about being one. It was a childhood fantasy come true. He failed at every attempt at success in the oil business world…and landed softly as an owner of a baseball team.Not because he was smart or clever, but because there was little, if anything, else to do with his failed life as an adult.
    He cannot allow himself to think beyond his fantasy image of himself..or, that he was responsible for one of the most catastrophic blunders in American history, rivaled only by Viet Nam.The blood is on his hands and he only allows just a sliver of truth to peek into the reality of the horror of his hapless, heedless ways. He has no real regrets, just a childish sense of bewilderment that MAYBE something went wrong..and in true sociopathic style, cannot allow himself to admit blame or miscalculation….He is an isolated person. He stays out of the spotlight because he has been told or knows perhaps that he is toxic. He is wealthy. He is healthy…but I believe he is very, very sad at the same time.He really wanted to be, just for a brief moment, a real “commander” when he landed aboard the aircraft carrier and saw and heard wild cheers from the “extras” assembled for the photo-op of his whole administration. He so wanted to believe that moment defined his service as Commander in Chief of the U.S of A…He did leave a legacy and it is a terrible and painful one. So he hides parts of himself from view because maybe, just maybe, he was not as he imagined himself to be. Sad. Very sad, indeed.

  15. ratbastard says

    Fascinating. He’s not half bad an artist, and his choice of subject matter is intriguing.

    Winston Churchill and Hitler also like to draw. Hitler’s paintings were pretty decent technically, but were sterile, devoid of life, just draftsman-type architectural drawings. Churchill’s by comparison were very warm and sensual.

    I’ve heard it said that Bush in private is a very warm and engaging guy, while President Obama, who has a public reputation for being a kind of regular person, smiling, and so-on, is very cold and reserved in private. Interesting stuff.

  16. aneas taint says

    @dback’s art/psychoanalysis on the 1st pg of comments here is ten times better than NY mag’s.