LONDON — Paintings by former U.S. president Bill Clinton are being showcased in the exhibition “Beautiful Wives of Great Leaders,” which opened Friday at Saatchi Gallery in London.
A total of 36 portraits depict the attractive wives of world leaders, some of whom were in office at the same time as Clinton in the 1990s.
The former president says he became interested in art soon after his wife’s unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008.
“Hillary and I put everything we had into that race,” Clinton said. “And when it was clear that she wasn’t going to win, everything came to a great big grinding halt.”
“Afterwards, I spent a lot of time in my study, reminiscing about my own time in the White House, and the people I met,” he said. “Being president, you get to know a bunch of really fantastic leaders, and behind all of them are women, many of whom are unforgettably pretty.”
Clinton says that while Hillary was occupied being secretary of state, he kept busy by trying to represent on canvas the most beautiful wives he had met. He says that by doing this he is not only warding off boredom, but he is also doing a favor for humanity.
“Photos don’t often show what makes a lady so darn gorgeous,” Clinton said. “When you do a portrait, you can accentuate certain things — stray locks of hair, a sultry gaze, a neckline reminiscent of a swift gazelle, or whatever. These portraits will belong to the ages.”
Many of the works are being praised, especially because Clinton has no formal training in oil painting. Guardian art critic Jason Farago described the pieces as “controlled yet explosive, technical but sexy — reminiscent of Modigliani and Lucian Freud.” Farago also said it is easy for British critics and audiences alike to appreciate the works considering Clinton’s generally favorable reputation.
“Bill Clinton was a fantastic president,” Farago added. “And his portraiture just goes to show how keen of an observer he is — acutely aware of every line and shadow of the bodies and faces of the beautiful women he meets.”
While the exhibition only includes portraits of wives, Clinton says he is working on a series of portraits of knockout female world leaders.
“There’s no scarcity of jaw-dropping women leading the world’s nations,” Clinton said. “Off the top of my head, there’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt in Denmark and Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister of Thailand. Both just really stunning women. And there’s the president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla. She’s a looker. Let’s not forget that also in South America is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president of Argentina — a solid, classy babe.”
“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Yulia Tymoshenko can have another go at being [prime minister] in Ukraine,” Clinton said. “She’s a hottie.”
“Hubba-hubba,” he added.
“Beautiful Wives of Great Leaders” is on display until September 15. Go to saatchigallery.com or email email@example.com for more information.