In Brief

George W. Bush Started His Art Career on His iPhone

A screenshot of one of The Onion's "Dead Iraqi Child" paintings by George W. Bush. (screenshots by the author)
Screenshot from the Onion’s satirical piece on George W. Bush’s paintings (screenshot by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

Can George W. Bush eclipse his legacy as a war criminal and one of the worst presidents in American history by continuing to make weird nude self-portraits? Mrs. Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager sure seem to hope so, based on their recent appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. 

The ex-president’s amateur painting career was first discovered in 2013 by a hacker called Guccifer: Two subtly unnerving self-portraits picturing Dubya in the shower and bathtub were leaked from his sister’s email account. More paintings later emerged — of dogs, horses, fruit — and soon, Bush was staging an exhibit of his portraits of world leaders. In this clip, Laura and Jenna explain what started all this: a drawing app. “He got the app on his iPhone — the Penultimate — and he drew these very funny stick figures,” Laura explained. When the former First Lady complimented one of these stick figures — “George, that’s very interesting lines.” — it went to his head.

“There was actually a period where he only communicated through his ‘art,’” Jenna told Fallon. “He would send Barbara and me a text that said ‘Going on an airplane’ and would do a stick figure of an airplane … Now he’s painting Putin,” she says, pronouncing it poo-din. Bush’s use of iPhone as canvas doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from the race to art world glory: Legendary British painter David Hockney draws on an iPad.

For the crime of making us all contemplate Bush’s inner life, Guccifer was sentenced to four years in prison in 2014. When he gets out, maybe he’ll leak the iPhone sketches that inspired Bush’s “Dead Iraqi Child” paintings.

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