Presidential Portraits

Portrait of the former President as an artist:
I love these two bather paintings. They are "simple" and "awkward," but in wonderful, unself-conscious, intense ways. They show someone doing the best he can with almost no natural gifts — except the desire to do this. The reclusion and seclusiveness of the pictures evoke the quietude (though not the insight, quality, or genius) of certain Chardin still lifes. These are pictures of someone dissembling without knowing it, unprotected and on display, but split between the promptings of his own inner drives and limited by his abilities. They reflect the pleasures of disinterestedness. A floater. Inert. The images of a man who saw the entire world from the inside but who finds the smallest, most private place in a private home to imagine his universe. Of almost nothingness. Sweet, sublime, oblique oblivion. The visibility of invisibleness.
Well, they weren't meant for public view. But the image of Bush quietly enjoying retirement in the solace of his bathtub is appealing-it shows a man who no longer has the problems of the world on his shoulders and can just relax. It's a happy retirement.


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