The former President spoke about his artwork to daughter Jenna Bush Hager for an interview on Today. He has taken up painting in recent years -- a hobby that was unexpectedly highlighted when a hacker gained access to his early paintings in Bush family email accounts.
"Vladimir Putin... I met with him a lot during the presidency," Bush recalls to his daughter as they gaze upon his painting. "I got to know him very well."
The former president goes on to tell Hager an anecdote, saying the Russian president "dissed" beloved Bush family dog, Barney. Putin apparently asked Bush of the Scottish Terrier, "You really call that a dog?"
"A year later, your mom and I go to visit Vladimir," he recounts to his daughter. "Out bounds this huge hound, and Putin looks at me and says, 'Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.'"
"I took it in, I didn't react," Bush says. "I just said [to myself], 'Wow... anybody who thinks 'my dog is bigger than your dog' is an interesting character,' and that painting kind of reflects that."
Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama are among the other political figures Bush chose to depict in his paintings. The works will go on display in April for "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.
"Who woulda thought it?" Bush says of his hobby. "I was a little reluctant to put them out [in public] because I'm not a great artist... On the other hand, I did want to refresh the Bush Center. I want people to come and visit us. We view ourselves as a place where people can learn."
The former president says his favorite painting is the one he did of his father, former President George H.W. Bush. He cites Winston Churchill's Painting as a Pastime as an inspiration, and signs his paintings "43" as a reference to himself being the 43rd President of the United States.