Former President George W. Bush's brush portrays world leaders

Fri Apr 4, 2014 4:53pm EDT
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By Bill Trott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday revealed a series of portraits of world leaders he painted in a new pursuit that he said has "opened my mind," even though it left him exposed to joking criticism from his mother.

An exhibit titled "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" opens on Saturday at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas and was shown to reporters on Friday.

It feature Bush's paintings of some two dozen world figures he worked with during his 2001-2009 presidency, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama.

Accompanying each portrait, are some rarely seen photos of Bush with each leader, including a photo of Bush and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi strumming guitars during a tour of Graceland in 2006. Koizumi, a fan of Elvis Presley, had requested this visit.

"No telling how these people are going to react when they see their portrait," Bush said in a taped interview on NBC with his daughter Jenna Bush Hager, a special correspondent for "Today."

A self-portrait and a painting of his father, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, also are part of the exhibit.

Bush had no interest in painting until leaving the White House and reading Winston Churchill's essay "Painting as a Pastime." His earliest works included quick drawings made for family members with an iPad app.

"I wanted to make sure the last chapters of my life were full, and painting, it turns out, has helped occupy not only space but opened my mind," Bush said.   Continued...

Amy Polley (L), curator at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and Margaret Spellings, president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, answer questions from the media during a tour of "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" exhibit at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas April 4, 2014. REUTERS/Brandon Wade