Former President turned painter George W. Bush’s haunting portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin came with an interesting story that Bush said served as the basis for the portrait.
As Bush told it, during one encounter between him and Putin, the Russian president “dissed” Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney.
“As you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special place in my heart — Putin dissed him and said, ‘You call it a dog?'” Bush told his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, in an interview Friday on the “Today” show.
A year later, Bush said he and former First Lady Barbara Bush went on a trip to Russia.
“Vladimir says, ‘Would you like to meet my dog?’ Out bounds this huge hound, obviously much bigger than a Scottish terrier, and Putin looks at me and says, ‘Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.'”
Bush thought that anecdote revealed a lot about Putin’s character, and he said he tried to reflect it in the portrait — which is one of a hollow, stone-faced Putin.
“I just took it in. I didn’t react,” Bush told his daughter. “I just said, ‘Wow. Anybody who thinks, ‘My dog is bigger than your dog’ is an interesting character. And this painting kind of reflects that.”
Here is a picture of Putin’s dog, a female black labrador named Koni, from a 2007 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
Here is a picture of Barney, Bush’s Scottish terrier:
Bush wasn’t asked to comment on Putin and Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, but he did lament the fact that he could never seem to convince Putin to dismiss his way of looking at the U.S.-Russia relationship as a zero-sum game. Lately, Putin’s moves in Ukraine renewed fears of another Cold War-type scenario between the U.S. and Russia — one in which the countries are trying to be “bigger, faster, stronger” than the other.
“Vladimir’s a person who, in many ways, views the U.S. as an enemy,” Bush said. “And although he wouldn’t say that, I felt that he viewed the world as either ‘the U.S. benefits and Russia loses’ or vice-versa. I tried, of course, to dispel him of that notion.”
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