Which Presidential Painting Portfolio Sucks Least
With his first gallery opening just around the corner, occasional N-word user/abstract artist Hunter Biden is set to become one of the highest-paid painters in the history of running colors. With this, Hunter will join the other First Children who launched their lucrative artistic careers during their dads’ turn at being the leader of the free world. Luminaries like Amy Carter, who became a professional illustrator of her dad’s sea turtle stories, or Margaret Truman, who became a critically praised (under threat of a presidential ass-kicking) opera singer, or Donald Trump Jr., now the world’s most famous outdoor fashion model.
Sadly, the critical reception of Hunter Biden’s soon-to-be multi-million contributions to art has not been as high. In fact, most critics have judged his art as being pretty meh even by the standards of a White House failson, unworthy of being hung in the darkest corner of a New Mexico Starbucks, let alone a prestigious gallery.
But is that true? Have these armchair art critics performed a proper academic comparison between the works of Hunter Biden and the many other First Painters? Throughout history, great leaders and also U.S. presidents have taken up painting as a way to channel their emotions and stresses. And like those mechanical paint can shakers at Home Depot, the results of their paintings have been thoroughly mixed and don’t look nearly as good on your bathroom walls as you thought they would.
Up first (and last) is President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the “artist in iron” who unfortunately painted primarily in oil. As an impressionist, Eisenhower went through a permanent blue period. Not because he favored the color but because he was constantly bummed out about how crap a painter he was, once claiming: “They would have burned this shit a long time ago if I weren’t the President of the United States.”
After trying to copy his wife Mamie’s official White House portrait on a bedsheet, the actual artist bought Eisenhower a painter’s kit as a gift. The president, and every art critic in the world, concluded this was a “sheer waste of money.” But Eisenhower kept at it, inspired by his buddy Winston Churchill becoming a celebrated still-life painter after WWII (any excuse to one-up Hitler), and in old age, he eventually reached his full potential as a landscape painter – someone trying to copy a Bob Ross video with a .2 blood alcohol content.
Less self-aware of his status as an accidental outsider artist was President Jimmy Carter. A prolific author, poet, and painter, Carter is best remembered as an above-average peanut farmer. Favoring watercolors, he divided his paintings between still lifes, which could be described as Norman Rockwellesque ...
And the kind of rectangle-spined, clown-fisted portraits that would make a kid have to repeat first grade.
Speaking of art that often looks like it was done by someone with visible stitches on their cranium, did you know President Donald Trump is a professional artist? Using a technique befitting his intellect and talent, permanent marker, Trump hastily doodled some sketches of New York buildings to pawn off charity auctions in the nineties. The most successful one, a somehow failed attempt at drawing a recognizable Empire State Building, sold for $100 in 1995. However, like so many artists misunderstood by their time, Trump’s work was later reevaluated as profoundly valuable -- right around the time he won the presidency. In 2017, the Empire State Building drawing and a sketch of a generic NY skyline were sold at Julien’s fancy art auction for $16,000 and $29,000, respectively. An in-house critic having analyzed Trump’s art to “symbolize ascent” through his use of straight lines and soaring blacks.
And then there’s, of course, the most famous Large Adult Son of the art world himself, President George W. Bush. Working with oil (of course), Bush has spent the last decade painting several series of portraits of all the people he met/screwed over as a president, including other world leaders, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and immigrants.
But unlike the other Presidential painters so far, at least Bush’s work gives a glimpse into the soul of the artist. Specifically, that this artist is the kind of deluded narcissist who not only turns his war crimes into hobby fodder but whose every artwork weirdly looks a bit like himself -- including the ones of dogs.
This is not to say that United States presidents make for universally shit painters. President Ulysses S. Grant, while attending art classes as a West Point Cadet, managed to craft both finely detailed charcoal drawings …
And beautifully melancholic watercolor paintings before the alcohol shakes forced him to hang up the brush.
Meanwhile, it was only recently revealed that President John F. Kennedy had a secret creative side -- and I’m not talking about the things Marilyn Monroe let him try out when it was his birthday. In 2020, several watercolors of boat scenes that JFK painted during the 1960 campaign trail resurfaced. These quite beautiful landscapes have noticeable raw talent behind them by deftly contrasting the stillness of the blue waters with shocking splashes of reds, an artistic feat JFK never again managed to replicate on canvas.
So who is the greatest presidential painter of them all? Well, Hunter Biden, obviously. As kings of capitalism, all of these (soon-to-be) dead presidents would agree that the Free Market decides which artists have the greatest value. And while President Carter managed to sell one of his fridge door masterworks for over $500,000 and President Bush’s unintentionally surreal art dominated the novelty Christmas ornament sales of 2013, these rooky art numbers pale in comparison to Hunter’s projected eight-figure cashout. With that settled, be sure to look out for the next edition of Presidential Art Corner when we’ll definitively decide which Vice President made the best macaroni art.
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Top Image: Hunter Biden, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, The White House