Though it took an incredible breach of a family’s privacy — a hacker gaining access to seven Bush family email accounts, including those of the former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, the Smoking Gun reports — we now have confirmation of long-circulating rumors that the the younger George Bush is indeed a painter, and even a half-decent one.
Two of the Bush Jr. paintings uploaded by the anonymous hacker appear to be partial self-portraits of the artist and former head of state in the bathroom: One shows him from the back in the shower (above), his face partially visible in a hanging mirror, a possible reference to Diego Velázquez’s “Rokeby Venus,” aka “Venus at her Mirror” (1647-51).
The former president’s work, which we’ll call “Bush at his Mirror,” shows the artist standing outside the shower’s jet of water, while an elegant streak of light interrupts the tiles’ strict grid with a bright diagonal. The former president’s textured rendering of his back and hair attest to an affecting level of earnestness that puts his work far past that of another recent celebrity painter, the even more universally despised Chris Brown.
The second bathroom self-portrait (below), which Jerry Saltz rhapsodically proclaimed “the strangest, and the strongest” of the hacked trove, shows Bush legs from the knees down in a half-full bathtub. Once again, his rendering of light is impressive, with a glowing splash of sun radiating from the composition’s upper-left-hand corner. The water effect demonstrates further technical proficiency, the pink of the legs gradually disappearing beneath the gray of the water.
Even more compelling is the former president’s manipulation of perspective, which matches the viewer’s point of view with that of the artist and the painting’s subject, Bush himself. In other words, while looking at this painting — which Animal rightly points out bears strong structural resemblances to Frida Kahlo’s “What I Saw in the Water” (1938) — we are all former president George W. Bush.
— Benjamin Sutton