Now that you've seen George W. Bush's collection of portraits and have learned more about his painting career, it may shock you to discover that the former president did not use personal photos as references, but instead painted each political leader using photos he found on Google Images.
According to ANIMAL, art critic Greg Allen was the first to notice that the portraits were sourced from the top search results on Google and from individual Wikipedia pages. ANIMAL found the photos and placed them side-by-side with Bush's artwork to show the similarities. The paintings are almost robotic in the way that he copied the exact poses and expressions, though he did take it upon himself to make Ehud Olmert's tie a different color. Oh, and then there's this:
interesting [sic]: GWB's source image for Vaclav Havel comes way, way down in the Google Image results. an exception/enigma— gregorg (@gregorg) April 9, 2014
Deborah Solomon of WNYC Radio called the work "very simple-minded" while others attempted to analyze the art on levels of thinking that Bush was clearly not concerned with.
His sourcing of images led ANIMAL to inquire about the legality of his work. They spoke to Allen about copyrights and whether or not Bush is as "guilty" as Shepard Fairey was with his portrait of Barack Obama: "I think Bush is fine to go it alone, permission-wise, for his paintings. Copyright infringement is the one thing he’s NOT guilty of. Comparing his case to Fairey, I think the AP was wrong and lame to go after a clear case of fair use, but ultimately it was the cover-up, not the crime, that caught up to Fairey. In Bush’s case, he’s clearly transforming his source images; every difference between a photo and its painting is Bush’s own contribution. And even if GWB used someone’s copyrighted image, I’m sure he’d skate, or if they sued, they’d eventually settle and turn him into a copyright hero, which, no thanks."
Moral of the story is, you can steal images for your art, but only if you're the former President of the United States.