George W. Bush shares his paintings with Jay Leno


Many former politicians, like Bill Clinton, can’t help but pontificate on current events when they make appearances on late night TV. But not George W. Bush. The 43rd president of the United States stuck mostly to his painting career when he appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Tuesday.

Bush told Leno, “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president criticize his successor.”

So, no Obamacare/shutdown/budget battle/Iran/Syria discussions for this late-night trip. Just paintings.


Bush revealed to Leno what exactly he said to his painting instructor, Gail Norfleet, when he asked that she take him on as a student.

“There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body,” he said. “Your job is to find it.”

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Bush and Leno discussed some of the president’s most recent works, portraits of his dog, Barney, and his cat, Bob. Discussions of artist’s intent, style and hidden meanings were left to others. Leno just wanted some pet stories.

“I can’t even see where you painted over the number,” Leno said of the Barney portrait.

The closest Bush got to engaging in current events was recounting the story of when Bush introduced Barney to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin “kind of dissed him,” Bush said, visibly chagrined. “He was like, ‘You call that a dog?’”

Leno seemed shocked, but Bush qualified, “Well, he didn’t really say it. But his body language said it.”


A year later, Putin introduced Bush to his own dog, a large hound that was “bigger, faster and stronger than Barney.”

“Wow, you should have nuked him,” Leno said.

Bush didn’t respond to that one, other than to laugh. The truth will only be known to a select few.

But Bush did bring one major surprise to the show. It turns out he painted a portrait of Leno himself, which he presented to the late night host on the air. Eerily, the painting depicted Leno wearing the same color suit and tie that he was wearing in real life, which either speaks to Bush’s exacting and prescient eye as an artist or Leno’s unwavering fashion choices. Either way, the gift left Leno a little speechless.

“I can’t make fun of him now,” Leno said.


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