Presidential Art

ID_NC_MEIS_BUSH_AP_001 Morgan decides that he admires the new, middlebrow official portrait of George W. Bush at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, in The Smart Set:

The portrait is by Robert Anderson, a portrait painter more or less by trade and, as it happens, a classmate of Bush's from Yale. George W looked at the work of a number of painters and eventually settled on Anderson as the man to do the official portrait, the one that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian along with the other presidential portraits.

That can't be serious, I thought to myself when I turned a corner at the Gallery and saw the portrait. The mundane kitsch of the thing was shocking. There are standards. By God there are standards. Aren't there? A vase of flowers sits on the table of a dining room set behind him. The set is more middlebrow than anything you could find even at a mainstream outfit like IKEA. It is a set you'd find, I suppose, at Jennifer Convertibles. The whole scene is resolutely suburban. Aggressively suburban. The portrait is, essentially, a Sears portrait. Hanging at The National Portrait Gallery, not too far from where Elaine de Kooning's Modernist rendering of JFK can be found, is a Sears portrait of the 43rd President of the United States of America.

Pantless morgan

The more I looked at it, the more my admiration grew. Say what you like about George W. Bush, but that dummy is no dummy. Any other painting, any other style, any other approach would have been ridiculous. But how do you ridicule a Sears portrait that really and truly presents itself as nothing other than a Sears portrait? It should have been more classical, you could protest. It should have been more in line with contemporary trends in the arts. Oh, really?

I like how clean his shirt is, how crisp are the lines running up the right arm that Bush rests with such infinite comfort on his leg.