Top Google Images May Have Inspired Bush’s Portraits Of World Leaders

April 9, 2014 10:11 a.m.

Former President George W. Bush says people will be able to look at his newly unveiled paintings of world leaders — including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Afghan President Hamid Karzai — and sense the “feeling” he got about about each of them through his “personal diplomacy.”

But something more than a “feeling” may have inspired each of the 24 portraits now on display at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas — Google Images, to be exact.

Animal New York lined up some of Bush’s portraits with the top Google search images for the foreign dignitaries they depict, showing that Bush appears to have modeled several of his paintings on the very first image to show up in search results.

Greg Allen, an art critic and filmmaker, pointed out the similarities on his blog:

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Many photos were taken from the subject’s Wikipedia entry. Bush based his paintings on the literally first-to-surface, easiest-to-find photos of his subjects. Is this meaningful in any way? If he had one, it would mean Bush’s studio assistant is very, very lazy. But in all his discussion of it, Bush’s painting practice appears to be a solitary one. He apparently did not tap the enormous archive of photos, taken by the professionals who followed him every day for eight years, which are contained in his giant library. Instead, it seems, he Googled the world leaders he made such impactful relationships with himself, and took the first straight-on headshot he saw.

Art critic Deborah Solomon also told the Huffington Post that she thought Bush probably traced photographs of the world leaders by projecting them onto a panel and copying them. Solomon said that was a perfectly “legitimate” method of painting, but characterized his work as “simple-minded.”

But Allen said not to expect any pushback even if Bush appears to have modeled one of his portraits after, say, an Associated Press photo.

“I think Bush is fine to go it alone, permission-wise, for his paintings,” he told Animal New York. “Copyright infringement is the one thing he’s NOT guilty of.”

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