Powerful political leaders, be they pragmatic, heroic statesmen or abominable villains, have left permanent marks on the history of mankind. The demands of their roles leave little time for leisure, much less for focused, creative endeavors. But what happens when these leaders take a break from painting human history to paint on a canvas?
Below are some of the most prominent politicians in the world who took the time out of everything going on around them to put paint to canvas. They aren’t the only ones, but they are perhaps the most recognizable. Love them or hate them, but looking at their art offers as an interesting window into the minds of men who changed the course of history. They may not be the most skilled painters, but in most of their cases, it is impressive that they found the time and focus to take up painting in the first place.
What do you see in their works?
Russia’s macho-man president painted this piece as part of an auction held for charity in Saint Petersburg. Vladimir Putin’s painting fetched a hefty sum at 37 million rubles, or just over 1.1 million dollars. Critics have puzzled over the piece, which to some seems at once sophisticated and simple. Rumors abound that Putin had the help of a professional artist, who may have been Nadezhda Anfalova.
“Natalya Kurnikova, the Moscow gallery owner who bought the artwork, said she had done so because it could be the first and last painting of its kind.” – The Guardian about Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
George W. Bush
George W. Bush oil painting hobby was revealed to the public after a hacker going by “Guccifer” hacked the Bush family’s emails and posted photographs of the paintings online. Since then, more have been posted online. The president began by painting primarily dogs, but has since expanded to landscapes as well with the encouragement of his wife and of Bonnie Flood, the artist helping him improve his work. Of special interest to most critics are his self-portraits in the bath tub and shower, which seem to speak on a deeper and more psychological level than his landscapes and dog portraits.
“Fortunately, I haven’t seen those reviews. Look, the signature is more valuable than the painting.” – George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
Before he became one of the most iconic historical icons of evil, Hitler aspired to become an artist. In his youth, he made a modest living by painting watercolors and printing and selling them as postcards. His application to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna was rejected twice because he didn’t measure up. A professor suggested that he study architecture, but Hitler did not have the academic credentials necessary to do so. It is unclear if his rejection from art school played a role in his later actions, but Hitler has said that Vienna was the catalyst for his antisemitism. Many historians love to consider how history would have turned out differently had Hitler been accepted into art school.
“I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist.” – Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of Nazi Germany
On the rare occasion that Winston Churchill, Britain’s legendary WWII statesman, was able to find time for himself, he often liked to spend it in front of a canvas. Despite his many accomplishments in Britain’s name, he was also a man of the arts, painting numerous paintings and writing several books. He was a disciplined and largely self-taught painter who occasionally met with successful contemporary artists to listen to their advice. He had said that painting helped him cope with his memories of war.
“Painting came to my rescue in a most trying time. I had long hours of unwonted leisure, in which to contemplate the frightful unfolding of War; and then the Muse of Painting came to me and said, ‘Are these toys any good to you? They amuse some people’.” – Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower, America’s warrior-president, was inspired to take up painting when he observed Tomas E. Stephens paint a portrait of Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie. He was fairly prolific during the last 20 years of his life, but his work remained fairly conservative. He painted landscapes and patriotic portraits, and was not a fan of modern art. The president was extraordinarily humble regarding his work, and its main purpose for him was relaxation. He also once complained that he had found more time to paint as president than after his term because his time in the presidency had been far more structured.
“Let’s get something straight here, Cohen. They would have burned this [expletive] a long time ago if I weren’t the president of the United States.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States