George W. Bush’s Portrait at National Portrait Gallery

The official portrait of the 43rd president, striking a relaxed pose, enters the Smithsonian collections

NPG_2008_51 Bush R.jpg
The artist, Robert Anderson of Darien, Connecticut, was a Yale classmate of President George W. Bush (above, detail). NPG

The 43rd president of the United States has officially been added to the National Portrait Gallery’s hall of "America’s Presidents." President Bush and the first lady, who also sat for a portrait that now hangs on the gallery’s first floor, were in attendance at the December 20, 2008 unveiling—the president in a rather witty mood.

"I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging," he reportedly said in his remarks. And he continued to get laughs from his audience, as he commented on the symmetry of the exhibition: "It starts with George W.—and ends with George W."

The portrait itself is quite informal. The president is sitting casually on the edge of a sofa, and he has a warm, relaxed expression on his face, despite the hardships of his eight years in office.

It might best be described as though he is looking into the eyes of a friend, and, in fact, he was. The artist, Robert Anderson of Darien, Connecticut, was a classmate of President Bush’s at Yale. In his remarks, Bush called Anderson his "buddy."

He joked about how making him beautiful would be a bigger task than what Laura Bush’s portraitist Aleksander Titovets was faced with when painting the first lady, the literacy advocate and former teacher and librarian that she is, with a book in hand. "I needed to find a person who would do the painting that would be a good and forgiving friend," he said.

Apparently, Anderson easily managed the president’s eyes and hands but had some difficulty when it came to his mouth. President Bush’s response: "That makes two of us."

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