A mini-tempest appeared last week with talk about how President Bush has utterly misunderstood a painting of a cowboy a'ridin' up a hill, and that his skewed view of the painting tells us all much about our president.
The painting is by one W.H. D. Koerner, and while governor in Texas, Bush referred to it by the title "A Charge to Keep", even using that phrase as title of his own biography. Bush said the painting was of a Methodist minister a'ridin' hard and fast up a treacherous hill, intent on spreading his religion to all, no matter the odds. "What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves" wrote Bush.
But according to a new book, and as reported too by Sydney Blumenthal in 2007, the interpretation was not exactly the intent of the artist. The painting originated as a depiction of a horse thief trying to escape from a posse. (see the painting in the link)
"Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”
Now as part of this tempest has been the incredulous shock of some, who say "look at how Bush's mistaken interpretation of a work of art tells us so much about him!"
However - none of us need rely on Bush's views on art to "tell us" about the man and the president.
We have nearly 8 years of his interpretation of the Constitution, the rule of law, the balance of governmental powers, his choices for governmental appointments, and so many more of his actions tell us all about the man and the president.