Apparently some of George W Bush's critics are bothered by the fact that he's quite a competent painter and in particular that he has a skill for perspective, because it implies that he's capable of seeing things from a different point of view. But art critic Morgan Meis (h/t Browser) takes the reader through a quick historical and theoretical tour of Realism and the work of Degas to arrive at the conclusion that Bush's critics have nothing to worry about:
Comparing the paintings of George W. Bush and Edgar Degas is an absurd undertaking if we are talking about quality. We would be comparing a hobbyist with one of the great masters. But I am not suggesting that we compare in terms of quality. I am suggesting that we can learn something about the Realist mind when we look at the art of George W. Bush as well as that of Degas. The Realist is often forced to the side, to the oblique angle, to the unusual vantage point precisely in his attempt to get at the truth. The truth of a scene doesn’t always reveal itself right away. The Realist must hunt for the right spin with great confidence. The Realist believes in his or her capacity to see rightly. The Realist cares nothing for multiple points of view. The Realist cares only for the correct point of view, the view that reveals the most truth. That is to say, Realists in painting (or in anything else) have an in-built arrogance. It is an arrogance born of the idea that Realists are uniquely able to see things the right way. Even if this means that they must climb up into the rafters and look down on a scene from a strange angle, the Realist is fundamentally convinced that his own point-of-view is the correct one.
Perhaps this begins to sound more like the George W. Bush we've all come to know and love (or love to hate).
The conclusion chimes with the criticism that what Bush lacked as president was not intelligence so much as curiosity. He already knew the truth, so his job was simply to be 'the decider' rather than a thinker or prevaricator.
And yet that conclusion doesn't sit entirely well with what Bush himself has said about his new hobby. In the video above, you see him describe, with an unmistakable sense of wonderment, how 'I look at colours differently; I see shadow'. The sense is not of someone who is painting 'the truth' but rather of someone whose eyes have been opened to a perspective on the world he never knew existed. It's actually rather endearing.
So maybe Bush the president did have the arrogance of someone 'uniquely able to see things the right way'. But people change. So much so that one is tempted to wonder what America and the world might look like today had Bush taken up painting 15 years ago...