A Sears Portrait Of 43


Morgan Meis scoffs at and then appreciates Robert Anderson's official Bush portrait:

That can't be serious, I thought to myself when I turned a corner at the Gallery and saw the portrait. The mundane kitsch of the thing was shocking. There are standards. By God there are standards. Aren't there? A vase of flowers sits on the table of a dining room set behind him. The set is more middlebrow than anything you could find even at a mainstream outfit like IKEA. It is a set you'd find, I suppose, at Jennifer Convertibles. The whole scene is resolutely suburban. Aggressively suburban. The portrait is, essentially, a Sears portrait. Hanging at The National Portrait Gallery, not too far from where Elaine de Kooning's Modernist rendering of JFK can be found, is a Sears portrait of the 43rd President of the United States of America.

The more I looked at it, the more my admiration grew. Say what you like about George W. Bush, but that dummy is no dummy. Any other painting, any other style, any other approach would have been ridiculous. But how do you ridicule a Sears portrait that really and truly presents itself as nothing other than a Sears portrait?

(Image: by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)