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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

George H.W. Bush Portraits

President George H. W. Bush, 1994, Herbert E. Abrams, Official White House Portrait.
Recently I've come to notice that some of the best (and worst) painted portraits by American artists are those painted of the Presidents of the United States. Having decided to bring portraits of all forty-four presidents to light the next question was, where to begin. The logical thing to do would be start with the first president. That would be too easy. The next thought that came to mind would be to start with the most recent president and work backwards, but that might involve the appearance of political favoritism. Finally, in looking up the biographical information on each president, I noted that only one president was born during the month of June--June 12, 1924, to be exact. That seemed to me to be as good a place as any to begin. So, Happy (belated) birthday, former President George. H. W. Bush. He's also our oldest living president, being some three months older than former President Jimmy Carter (October 1, 1924).

President George H.W. Bush, Ron Sherr, Kennebunkport pose, National Portrait Gallery
President George H.W. Bush by
President George W. Bush.
Herbert E. Abrams, the painter of President George H.W. Bush (top), also painted the official White House portrait of former President Jimmy Carter and that of Barbara Bush. The painting in the background of the Bush portrait is by George P. A. Healy titled The Peacemakers. The biggest problem I encountered in researching the portraits of the elder President Bush was that all too often there popped up the persistently atrocious portraits by the younger President Bush, including the one of his father (right). Perhaps his only saving grace is that the younger President Bush's self-portrait is at least as bad. Perhaps, if he wishes to paint portraits, George W. Bush should take lessons from Ron Sherr, the artist painting the portrait of his father hanging in the National Portrait Gallery (above). Posed at the Bush's Kennebunkport home, the artist improvised a background depicting the White House East Room.

President George H.W. Bush, Evertt Raymond Kinstler, Yale Club, New York City.
President George H.W. Bush,
Everett Raymond Kinstler,
collection of Mrs. Bush
Undoubtedly the most prolific living painter of presidential portraits is Everett Raymond Kinstler, whose portrait of President George H. W. Bush (above) today hangs in New York City's Yale Club (Bush was a Yale graduate). Kinstler, now 88 years of age, has painted every president from Nixon to George W. Bush. He has painted three portraits of George H.W. Bush, including the loosely handled study (right) from the Bush family collection, and the portrait of the former president now in the collection of Union League, of Philadelphia (bottom).
President George H. W. Bush,
Randal Huiskens
Of course no president can avoid any number of very unofficial portraits such as that by pop artist, Randal Huiskens (left), of Evanston, Illinois. It may not be the most "presidential" looking portrait ever rendered, but it does seem to capture the man's charisma and natural charm. And, in any case, it's a far cry better than that painter by President George H.W. Bush's own flesh and blood.

President George H.W. Bush, Everett Raymond Kinstler,
collection of Union League, Philadelphia, PA


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