Those who might have looked askance at George W. Bush's forays in portraiture might be interested to know that the former president apparently lifted all of the images he used in his most recent paintings of world leaders directly from the top searches in Google Images.
Earlier this week, we commented on Dubya's second act as 24 paintings of different world leaders were released to the public during a pre-recorded segment on The Today Show with Bush's daughter as the interviewer. The portraits included oil homages to Tony Blair, Ehud Olmert, Vladimir Putin, and the Dalai Lama.
This otherworldly discovery of the collection's link to Google was made by some intrepid sleuthing, which happened to make a lot of others who wrote seriously about the paintings seem a little silly.
However, some critics did not seem to get the memo, like Roberta Smith, who writes in The New York Times, “The images seem legible and familiar, as if, as some have suggested, they were the first to pop up on Google.” Not “as if.” Literally.
And here's another cringe-worthy one:
The painting of Putin doesn't necessarily stand out because of artistic merit (though I'd argue that it is a really good painting aesthetically). What's really fascinating is to watch Bush grapple with the identity of Putin, a man he once claimed to understand well. "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy," Bush famously said after first meeting his Russian counterpart in 2001.
But still yet, some got it right:
As with all things Bush, the content that comes out of the pictures is not a man exploring his own vision and his deeper feelings. The content that speaks volumes in Bush's work now is what he's not painting.
In the scheme of the universe, this is probably small beer. But if George W. Bush were out to punk the elites of the art world, he may have just succeeded.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.