It may surprise you to learn that former president George W. Bush is also a talented painter who has devoted a great deal of time since he left the White House to painting eloquent portraits of military service members and veterans who have served our country since 9/11.

Photo by Grant Miller

Described as “A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” 66 of his paintings and a four-panel mural have been grouped together for “Portraits of Courage,” a special touring exhibit that San Antonians will have the opportunity to see this summer at the Witte Museum. The announcement was made Feb. 6 at a press conference at the museum. Mayor Ron Nirenberg addressed the gathering as did Marise McDermott, the Witte’s CEO, and retired Col. Miguel Howe of the George W. Bush Center’s Military Service Initiative. The project is sponsored by the Zachry Group and the show will be at the Witte from July 21 to Sept. 30. Only three other cities will be included in the tour. 

Photo by Grant Miller

Some time ago, I watched a TV segment featuring President Bush, his portraits and several of the servicemen he painted. It seemed clear that the former president’s heart was very much involved in his huge art project. But the paintings spoke for themselves. You didn’t have to know who created them, to relate to them. Those were faces that stayed with you. In the Witte exhibit, each portrait will be accompanied by the personal story of the depicted service member as written by the portrait artist himself.

Photo by Grant Miller

Since the military have been part of San Antonio’s community and history for a king time, “Portraits of Courage” is a fitting tribute to the city’s Tricentennial celebration. Col. Howe referred to the obvious connection between the subject matter of the show and “Military City, USA,” urging all present to spread the word about the exhibition.

The paintings are also included in a best-selling book written by President Bush and published by Crown Publishing in 2017. Proceeds benefit the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative which focuses on helping warriors and their families transition to civilian life.
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Portraits (from top) Ramon Padilla, Michael R. Rodriguez, Leslie Zimmerman