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Presidents That Have Picked Up the Brush

Presidents That Have Picked Up the Brush

As anybody stepping down from a high position of any sort will feel, I'm sure it's a great weight off of the shoulders to the man leaving the seat of the presidency. That being said, what is the transitional process of going from being the most powerful man in the Free World, to becoming another citizen (with former presidential influence/ knowledge)?

What do you do with all of your newly felt freedom? Golf? Fish? Hunt? Well, no matter how much you love Golf, you can only golf on so many courses, you can only fish so many lakes, you can only hunt so many woods. However, you can paint an infinite number of things using more colors and styles than you can even begin to count, aside from being able to paint exactly what you desire and be in complete control. Sound familiar? 

These features have a tendency to lure the curiosity of former high officials, and when it gets right down to it, it only shows how art serves as an equalizer no matter which chair you sit or have sat in, everybody can respect beauty.

Here is a short list of a few Presidents who've decided to pick up the brush, and some that have even pulled a pretty penny doing so. Enjoy!


1.George W. Bush

The 43rd President of the United States of America, dubbed as the main proponent of the war on terror has become quite the artist since leaving w bush painting presidents day


He's shown up to display his skills at many public events and fundraisers, and even has a sizeable collection of portraits from animals, to world leaders like Vladmir Putin. 

The paintings of world leaders were part of an exhibit entitled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy.” It featured 30 oil-on-board paintings of world leaders Bush spent time with during his time in office.

george w bush painting fallen soldiers presidents dayNow the ex-president has moved on to more controversial subjects: depictions of fallen soldiers from the war in Iraq. In his later years, Bush has turned his artistic lens on drawing the young servicemen whose deaths many would claim he caused.

Bush himself wrote of the work: “I’ve painted the portraits of 98 wounded warriors I’ve gotten to know – remarkable men and women who were injured carrying out my orders.”

Of his recent work, Bush wrote:

“Over the past several months, I’ve painted the portraits of 98 wounded warriors I’ve gotten to know – remarkable men and women who were injured carrying out my orders. I think about them on #VeteransDay and every day. Their paintings and stories will be featured in PORTRAITS OF COURAGE – a book and special exhibit – next spring, and I am donating all my proceeds to @thebushcenter and our Military Service Initiative’s work to honor and support them.”

Source for Information Regarding George W. Bush


2.Ulysses S Grant

general grant painting presidents day

Very few people are aware of General Grant's artistic ability. He was a very accomplished painter and paid a lot of attention to detail. While he was a cadet at West Point, he completed many paintings and sketches which still survive. Though self-effacing, Grant was proud of his ability to paint, and as President spoke of the satisfaction he derived from producing something "artistic." In the 1870's, he told his neighbor, George Childs, that he had liked painting and drawing while he was at West Point. Grant always used watercolors in his work. Many of his works are privately owned and there are several others on display in museums.

general grant painting native americans playing cards

This painting of an Indian trader, complete with a dog and a woman breastfeeding, is on display at the museum of the United States Military Academy, West Point. Grant retained this painting until the 1870's. He then gave it to Adolph Borie, Secretary of the Navy and one of General Grant's favorite card playing partners.

 general grant painting horse president day
This painting of a horse was one Grant did in 1842. This large draft animal was an obvious drawing choice for Grant, since he was enamored with horses his entire life. Considered the greatest rider in the army, one of the few instances when Grant became angry was when he saw a teamster mistreating a horse during the Civil War.

Source for information regarding General Ulysses S. Grant


3.Dwight D. Eisenhower

dwight d eisenhower painting a portrait presidents day

After golf, oil painting was Eisenhower's second hobby. While at Columbia University, Eisenhower began the art after watching Thomas E. Stephens paint Mamie's portrait. Eisenhower painted about 260 oils during the last 20 years of his life to relax, mostly landscapes but also portraits of subjects such as Mamie, their grandchildren, General Montgomery, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Wendy Beckett stated that Eisenhower's work, "simple and earnest, rather cause us to wonder at the hidden depths of this reticent president". A conservative in both art and politics, he in a 1962 speech denounced modern art as "a piece of canvas that looks like a broken-down Tin Lizzie, loaded with paint, has been driven over it.

eisenhower painting

Source for Information Regarding Dwight D. Eisenhower 

4.Jimmy Carter

 Now Jimmy Carter’s new book, “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety,” to be published July 7, features selections of the 39th president’s paintings and poetry. Carter is not new to the art world — one of his paintings, “Live Oak at Sunrise,” sold for $250,000 at a 2012 Carter Center fundraiser — and the portfolio in his latest book brings together scenes from throughout Carter’s life: portraits of his parents and his wife, Rosalynn, his childhood home, critical moments in his presidency and his post-presidential life, as well as a self-portrait of the artist at work in his studio. Carter completed all the paintings in the book over the past dozen years, while the poems were previously published in his 1994 collection “Always a Reckoning.”


jimmy carter painting of wife rosalyn

His father

jimmy carter painting of his father

His childhood home of Archery, Ga.

Carter describes this painting of his home growing up: “My boyhood home in Archery was a Sears, Roebuck house that had been built six years before our family occupied it in 1928. There were about two hundred people who lived in the unincorporated community of Archery.”

jimmy carter painting of his childhood home

The Camp David Accords

One of Carter’s greatest foreign policy achievements — the 1978 Camp David Accords, a framework peace deal between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin — is the subject of another of his paintings, this one completed in 2003. In the book, Carter explains how he broke an impasse with a personal gesture to Begin, who was angry with Carter and would not budge on two points the Israeli leader considered essential. The talks seemed to have failed. “My secretary came to me with a request from Begin that I sign photographs of the three leaders as souvenirs for his eight grandchildren,” Carter recalls. “Without telling him, she had called Israel and obtained their names, so I inscribed them, with love, to each child. I went to Begin’s cabin, and he admitted me with a polite but frigid attitude. I gave him the photographs, he turned away to examine them, and then began to read the names aloud, one by one. He had a choked voice, and tears were running down his cheeks. I was also emotional, and he asked me to have a seat. After a few minutes, we agreed to try once more, and after some intense discussions we were successful.”

jimmy carter painting of his interpretation the camp david accords 

Source for Information Regarding Jimmy Carter


While painting for enjoyment and relaxation, you may also stumble across inspiration as many influential people have before. If we were based in D.C., I'm sure the White House would have us over, but lucky for you we're right here in your backyard! Don't forget to pick up the brush this coming month as the following Holidays along with great Let's Gogh Art painting special are arriving very shortly:

Washington's Birthday, Oscar Night 2017, Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Leap Day (not again until 2020), Ash Wednesday, International Women's Day, St. Patrick's Day, International Earth Day 

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  • Michele Manjarrez