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the paintings of George W. Bush

George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, 2013, oil on board, approx 20 x 18".

We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content

ourselves with a joy-ride in a paint box. And for this

audacity is the only ticket.

Winston Churchill, “Painting as a Pastime”

AS I WRITE THIS REVIEW, the New York Times is running a feature on Metro Meteor, a retired racing champion who’s reinvented himself as a painter. Assistants tape his brushes so that they don’t splinter when he holds them in his mouth. He paints only one color a day so that the marks don’t smear. Presumably, he paints by feel—after all, a horse’s eyes are on the side of its head.

I don’t bring up Meteor to equate his work with that of a more famous retiree-artist, but to frame a problem: As both the outsider’s emblem of high art and the most populist and seductive of the hobbyist’s pastimes, painting gets weird, especially in the press. The instant George W. Bush decided to do it in earnest, there

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