New York Times
A dour Vladimir Putin glares ever so frostily, full of menace, free of mirth, ready to annex any passer-by unwise enough to get too close.
Tony Blair stares ahead, sober and resolute. Hamid Karzai, in traditional green cap and cape, glances off to the side, almost as if checking over his shoulder for the Taliban - or perhaps for the United States. The Dalai Lama looks serene, Stephen Harper jovial, Jiang Zemin grim.
The world's most distinctive gallery of international leaders opens in Dallas today, seen through the eyes of the former president of the United States and noted amateur painter, George W. Bush. Graduating from dogs and cats and landscapes, Bush has produced a collection of more than two dozen portraits of foreign figures he encountered while in office and put them on display at his presidential library.
The official debut of the artist known as W. peels back the curtain on the hobby that has consumed him, and intrigued many others, over the past couple of years. Although some of his early works, including vaguely unsettling self-portraits in the bath and shower, were posted on the Internet after his family's email accounts were hacked, this is the first time the former president has staged an exhibit of his art. And his choices are as revealing about the artist as the subjects.
"I spent a lot of time on personal diplomacy and I befriended leaders," Bush said in a seven-minute video produced by the History Channel that will greet visitors to the library on the campus of Southern Methodist University. "I learned about their families and their likes and dislikes, to the point where I felt comfortable painting them."
Alongside many of the portraits in the exhibit, "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy," are photographs of the subjects with Bush as well as some artifacts of their interactions.
To be sure, this is not a new Rembrandt, and Bush freely acknowledged in the video that "the signature is worth more than the painting."