Community & Government

"Happy are the Painters"

George W. Bush

Lesson time 18:03 min

Join President Bush in his personal art studio in Maine. The former president concludes his class by sharing why he decided to start painting and how he views learning as a lifelong pursuit

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Topics include: Join President Bush in his intimate art studio as he shares what he has learned by the surprising move to take up painting in his post-presidency — and that learning is a lifelong pursuit.


[MUSIC PLAYING] GEORGE W. BUSH: Painting brought an awareness to my life that I'd never really thought would happen. You know, driving down to the ranch and you know, I see a field of wildflowers, I see color in there that I didn't see before. I love color. Color reflects the spirit. And in my case, I hope one gets a sense that color reflects my joy of living and the joy of being 75 years old and still learning a lot, because every brushstroke is a learning experience. After the presidency, I frankly was happy to get out of there. I didn't miss power. I didn't miss fame. But I was longing for learning. I didn't really realize it until all of a sudden a professor named John Lewis Gaddis, who taught at Yale University, my alma mater, came by Dallas because he was selling a book, and he wanted to stop by to say hello. And he's teaching a course I think on strategic thought, and he said, one of the favorite books in my syllabus is Winston Churchill's "Painting As a Pastime." I bought it and read it. It moved me profoundly, because Churchill talked about color. Churchill wrote, "happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and color, peace and hope will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end of the day," which I thought was a really interesting observation. And what I realized was that I missed the learning experience that I had had as president. So I started studying Churchill's painting, and, you know, in essence I said, if that guy can paint, I can paint. I know it sounds cocky, but some accuse me of being that way. At any rate, I paint a lot, two to three hours every day. So I do a lot of thinking about art, and it's unbelievably relaxing. Not only is it a joyful experience, it keeps you young. [MUSIC PLAYING] LAURA BUSH: Recently George was looking through a book of paintings, and he pointed out a painting by Thomas Moran, saying how much he liked it. And I said, we had a painting by Thomas Moran hanging just outside the Treaty Room at the White House. I used to look at this painting almost every day. George passed it too nearly every night when he went into the Treaty Room to continue working after dinner, but he'd never noticed it. In the White House, I had the chance to look at every piece of art, but the issues for my husband were so great that he didn't have time to notice the beautiful paintings that hung on the walls. His attention was elsewhere. I'm grateful that at last George has a chance to develop his artistic eye. GEORGE W. BUSH: About 10 years ago, I started painting. My instructors, Gail, Jim, and Sedrick, said, look, if you want to be a decent artist and if you want to learn, study other artists, something which I had never done in my life. And so therefore, I'm going to paint a flower, gardenias, inspired by a great artist who died in 1943 named Chaim Soutine. I like Chaim's work because he seems to value shape and color over representation of...

About the Instructor

Step inside the Oval Office with the newest instructor in our White House series, President George W. Bush. With insight from former First Lady Laura Bush, the former commander in chief opens up about the tough calls and life lessons that shaped his career. Develop and own a leadership style that’s true to you and learn to lead by connecting personally with everyone in the room.

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George W. Bush

Learn to listen and inspire a culture of teamwork. The 43rd U.S. president teaches leadership skills from his career and opens up about painting.

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