The Republican Club — why is this painting interesting?

It hangs in the White House, and Trump seems to like the picture.  What about the image is striking?  I can think of a few things:

1. There are no Founding Fathers in the painting, or other references to the more distant past, and so “Republicans” are presented as a distinct club of their own, above and beyond the broader American tradition.  (On the far right, is that Theodore Roosevelt, Vernon Smith, or somebody else?)

2. The first George Bush (upper left), and Gerald Ford, are both denied a “seat at the proverbial table.”  Bush seems to look on with admiration.  The second George Bush, on the left side of the table seated, appears run down and haggard, defeated by the job.  He looks a wee bit like a paler Obama.

3. Nixon, who had to resign, drinks alcohol while Trump seems to have Coca-Cola.

4. Reagan is shown as Trump’s only peer, while Eisenhower is the one “closest” to Trump, and the one most appreciative.  Of course many of Trump’s policy preferences seem aimed at returning us to the Eisenhower era in some way (higher tariffs, lower immigration, less regulation, etc.)

5. Trump is the only one with a tie, except for TR, and it is a striking red tie.

6. Hoover, Harding, and Coolidge are in the distant back right.

7. It reminds me of a variety of “Last Supper” paintings, though not Leonardo’s.  There are twelve of them.

8. The background, with its column and twinklings lights, is reminiscent of late 19th century French impressionism.

9. Who is the bearded figure in the foreground, with his back to us?  At first I thought it was Mephistopheles, but it turns out to be Lincoln.  He is a passive onlooker with weak shoulders, and with no commanding or influential presence of his own.

10. Andy Thomas, the artist, also painted the very different The Democratic Club.  You could write a short book on the contrasts between the two paintings, for instance notice the Democrats are drinking beer and have a much wider and open background, with fewer columns.

Here is a related interview about the painting.  Via Anecdotal.

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While I find it unlikely that, say, Eisenhower would enjoy Trump's company, we have no definitive way of knowing, as he's long dead, so the painter can at least debate that point.

On the other hand, both Bushes are still alive and have made it clear that they absolutely cannot stand Trump, which makes this painting's depiction of them almost slanderous.

But the winners rewrite history, Stormy (Daniels?) Dragon!

Bonus trivia: James Buchanan was gay! He did a good job, under the circumstances, as the nation was headed to war and no amount of compromise could have saved it. He wanted (but was blocked) to annex Cuba and central America and make it part of the USA, wanted to buy Alaska (was done after the Civil War) and arguably would have made the USA into the United States of the Americas (North, Central and South America). NAFTA with a vengeance!? Imagine how different the world would have turned out with so many people united under one flag.

Ooo, ooo, here's a list of places that should join the U.S. today.

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And it's still possible for lots more people to be united under one flag. The U.S. could start, for example, "federating" its free-riding allies...

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So what was that a contest to see how insulting one could be towards Trump and the Republicans. How childish!

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I think that's precisely the reason it's an interesting painting.

The Democratic Presidents, assuming they stayed alive and grew up with society (ie, became less racist) would probably get along and have an enjoyable dinner party. The painting is relaxing but kinda bland since there's no real tension.

But whether or not you're a fan of Trump I don't think many people consider him a member of the Republican establishment. The Bushes certainly aren't fans and I suspect not many of the others would be either.

By having Trump essentially holding court among the GOP Presidents you're being asked to participate in someone else's fantasy and that tension is interesting.

Plus the actual depiction of Trump is him relaxed, looking welcoming, and having a good time, which is not a persona you ever see in real life. So again you're being confronted with a sort of alternate-reality Trump, and if you don't like Trump it's hard to be mad at the painting since he looks like a very pleasant fellow in it.

I have a hard time imagining Jackson tolerating either party, whatever your feelings on the man.

I have a hard time imagining either party tolerating Jackson. That should give you an idea of my feelings on the man.

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The Democratic Presidents, assuming they stayed alive and grew up with society (ie, became less racist) would probably get along and have an enjoyable dinner party. T

Huh?

1. Woodrow Wilson and his wife were horrid prigs who couldn't abide his amiable VP Thomas Marshall. Marshall told too many jokes. So, he's supposed to enjoy the company HST ("the man doesn't know sh*t from apple butter"), Lyndon Johnson (the man who would talk to his staff while taking a dump), and John Kennedy (pimper of Mimi Alford)? (I see you've tried to immunize your point against anyone who might point out that the only post-bellum president more hostile to blacks than Wilson was Andrew Johnson).

2. Kennedy's camarilla had no time for LBJ and his resentment of them was sufficiently intense he was taking it out on Hubert Humphrey. ("He'll get the same goddamn courtesies the Kennedys gave me: None").

3. Truman actually threw darts at Kennedy in public on-the-record remarks. The two men had flat zero in common.

4. Jimmy Carter is an introvert with indifferent one-on-one people skills. Edmund Muskie was the only member of the Senate Democratic caucus who could have been called a friend.

5. Truman was a domesticated man solicitous of his wife. Is it at all credible he'd have found the company of Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton anything but a work-related chore (esp given Clinton's oleaginous surfaces)? Ditto Jimmy Carter, who, If I'm not mistaken, goes out of his way to avoid Bill Clinton, which the Bushes do not.

6. Obama isn't known to do much business socializing. You can interpret that various ways. (Steve Sailer offers, plausibly, that peers make BO tense and antsy).

Steve Sailer said it? Well, if Steve Sailer said it, then it's probably fair game for "alternative facts" here.

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1-5 It's not so much that they'd be friends, the painting certainly exaggerates that. But it's kind of set "after the credits", like they're meeting in the afterlife or in a timeless historical setting where temporal concerns and rivalries aren't an issue, essentially the role of retired Presidents. In that way I think GWB would be just as home getting along with folks in the Democratic painting.

But I don't see Trump fitting into that role, in fact it's the defining mark of his Presidency. In all the moments where Presidents are supposed to play the role and rise above petty partisan concerns he's still throwing partisan insults.

6. "(Steve Sailer offers, plausibly, that peers make BO tense and antsy)." Seriously WTF? Obama is a charismatic introvert, how hard a concept is that to grasp?

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Teddy grimacing, thinking "How in hell did I get stuck between these two crooks?"

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Well, Trump doesn't drink alcohol, so at least it is accurate on that point.

Yeah Trump is known not to drink. The others appear to be drinking, not just Nixon. Eisenhower looks like he has a dram if bourbon.

GWB also has a non-alcoholic drink.

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Surprised when I originally found that out because I assumption all his 3am tweets were drunk tweets

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Wow. Talk about a Tyler Cowen Rorschach Test. (failure)

When you have a painting of nine smiling and happy guys around a table, it becomes very practical to have a few of them standing... this does not mean the standing men are "denied."

The smiling, happy seated guy is "run down and haggard, defeated by the job"? Are you insane?

"Nixon, who had to resign, drinks alcohol" -- most of them are drinking alcohol. Why are you referencing Nixon and his resignation? Do most of your students not know about his resignation?

And no, whenever there is a painting of multiple people and a table, it is not necessary to bring up The Last Supper every time. Dear God, man.

+1

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Who is the lady? Who is the bearded character in the left background? Where is McKinley? Why are Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover so tiny? Didn't they represent a strain of Republicanism (actually two strains) worth memorializing?

I liked the painting better when Trump wasn't in it.

The bearded man on the far left looks like Ulysses S. Grant.

Yeah, gotta be Grant.

The woman seems to also appear in the Democrat painting. Maybe it's Susan B. Anthony?

The first thought that came to mind when I saw the woman was Jacqueline Kennedy. Though I can't think of a reason why the artist would put her in the painting.

The author says she's the first woman president.

*artist.

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She looks like the same lady in the Democratic painting. Interpret as you wish.

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I believe I read somewhere that the artist intended her to represent a future female Republican president.

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Seems like most of the older and less well known Republican presidents get the shaft, Harrison and Taft are only barely recognisable in the background thanks to the former's beard and the latter's moustache and girth.

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#9: That says more about you than about the painting; it's obviously Lincoln.

The Democratic Club: unlike the Republican Club, you can't imagine this group of people getting along like that in real life.

Andrew Jackson definitely looks a little left out in the painting.

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At a personal level, you may be right. However, it's striking how all the featured Democratic presidents share Wilson's self-perception as elected emperor kings. In contrast, the featured Republican presidents have much more diverse self-conceptions about their presidential roles.

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Seriously, #9 is a deranged comment.

Is someone feeling like they may lose their job at Bloomberg and doubling down?

Democrats drinking beer? Please use your eyes. Jesus Christ. I get you are scared, terrified, of losing your seat at the table, but try to keep your comments on point.

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Yes, I thought the same thing - this comment struck me as the most off.

If anything, Lincoln is the focal point of the painting. All of the other president's postures are oriented towards him.

+1. Everyone appears to be laughing, except Lincoln, whose face we can't see, so they must be laughing at his joke. Plus he is in the center, and the rest are all facing him. On a circular table, he has the primary focus.

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The interesting thing about the Democratic Club is that nearly all of the Democratic Presidents at the table are looking towards FDR, who has his back to us. The only exception is Truman, who doesn't look like he's looking at any of them. Obama is at the center of the painting, but he's not really at the center of the action in the way that Trump is in the "Republican Club" painting.

Good catch. The Republican Club painting really ought to show everyone looking towards Reagan, with Trump miffed at the perceived slight. Maybe, the artist painted it with Trump at the center of attention because he understood that stroking Trump's ego would gain him favor.

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Democrats are definitely listening to FDR crack a joke over his famous martinis. Whilst Jefferson(?) looks on in vaguely disguised horror.... pace Tyler, they are not all on beer; only Obama and JFK (the populists). Truman and Johnson on Scotch, and Clinton, is that a vodka mixer?

It's harder to read a centre on the Republican club, but most eyes are in the direction of Lincoln, not Trump. Though Trump's gesture and Eisenhower's stance indicate that they may be supporting actors in the conversation. Was a bit surprised Tyler missed that.

The Republican Club eyelines are all over the place. Nixon and Reagan are looking at each other, and Teddy looks like he's looking at Bush Jr. Eisenhower is leaning in towards Trump but looking at the table, and Bush Jr could be looking at Trump or Teddy. Only Lincoln seems to be looking at Trump, and Trump looks like he's staring off into nothing in particular while smiling.

Broadly agreed. The eyelines are much more diverse. (Does this signal more diversity amongst the ideological positions?). Teddy, Nixon, and Bush Jnr seems to form one triad with Lincoln the centre of the other.

But you're not counting Bush Snr and Ford? They're looking at Lincoln. Plus Eisenhower's also appears like he is half-regarding him whilst leaning over. And Trump is looking at Lincoln, it seemed to me.

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Here's the unsullied version. https://cdn.unifiedcommerce.com/content/product/large/19387SO.jpg

Wow - one can wonder just how cheap Soviet era image manipulators are these days (Putin might still know a few), or whether it was just freelancers hoping that the Trump Organization will hang another picture that is actually not correct.

'The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least five of President Trump’s clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” the big headline said. Above the Time nameplate, there was another headline in all caps: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

-----------------------------------

The Time cover is a fake.

There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

In fact, the cover on display at Trump’s clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.

And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.' https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-time-magazine-with-trump-on-the-cover-hangs-in-his-golf-clubs-its-fake/2017/06/27/0adf96de-5850-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html??noredirect=on

And MR is truly on a role these days when it comes to its images.

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TC asks: "(On the far right, is that Theodore Roosevelt, Vernon Smith, or somebody else?)" - that would be Silent Cal, Calvin Coolidge. TR? He's already shown. I assume that's a typo, should read "On the far right of Theodore Roosevelt, is that Vernon Smith or somebody else?"

I think Tyler was making an obscure joke because although Vernon Smith doesn't look much like Teddy Roosevelt in general, he does have some resemblance to the depiction in the painting.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernon_L._Smith

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The two on the far right would be considered on the far left today?

In this comment section, undoubtedly.

Thread winner

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"notice the Democrats are drinking beer"

Strange. Today, we're much more likely to associate Republicans with beer, and perhaps scotch or whiskey. Democrats are more closely associated with wine, maybe even wine coolers.

"notice the Democrats are drinking beer". Not Slick Willy.

I suppose if Hillary had won she would have been added necking a bottle of vodka.

Oh man take that Killary! She is such a drunk!!! Hahahaha!

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Interesting how the normal side bar is missing - someone is playing behind the scenes much more than customary over the last few days.

And after posting, it appears - might be a javascript thing (if so, then the missing side bar would be another benefit of not using javascript).

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I went and read the discussion of the painting at the LA Review of books blog. I expected some savage comments and bigoted sneering along the lines of “look at the privileged white males.”

But instead the discussion started with a grudging acknowledgement that the painting isn’t too bad. Then I thought, “what? No Hitler remarks?” And on cue, we get a Hitler comment just part halfway.

Well, it took longer at MR for some commenter to bring up Hitler, but no surprise in the end.

And the original painting that Larry Siegel links to comes a bit closer to the idea of art that is discussed in the blog post, as all of the presidents actually look as if the job had left its mark on their faces (admittedly happy faces, but possibly that falls into the realm of artistic liberty).

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It's good to know Mad Magazine is still around.

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Lincoln is in the center of the painting staring straight at trump. presumably in judgment? in any case, lack of a valid smile does not necessarily mean passive, and he seems to be the key figure in the painting

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To me it seems that Lincoln is the focal point of this picture, not Trump. Lincoln, is the only one with his back to the viewer, thereby creating an aura of mystique, or superiority. And, Trump is looking at him. TR and Bush might also be looking at Lincoln, not sure. He seems to be the overall center of attention of the other presidents.

Lincoln is depicted from behind is because there exists no photograph of Lincoln smiling or looking relaxed. The artist had no photographic reference (as for Teddy Roosevelt, who smiled often for the camera). And apparently, he didn't have enough imagination to guess what Lincoln would look like with a great big smile across his face -- which contemporaries say he often had (the wrinkles around his eyes being broadly activated when he smiled).

As I recall, it was said that after telling one of his cornball jokes, he would often smile broadly, showing large, even teeth. He would force his long-suffering cabinet to listen to him read Petroleum V. Nasby and other tedious 19th century "humorists", aloud, punctuated with his own loud laughter.

A previous version of this painting had Lincoln smiling.

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'To me it seems that Lincoln is the focal point of this picture, not Trump.'

Not really, though by not picturing Lincoln's face, there is a certain amount of generated interest. However, it is the large white space, with the red tie, that tends to attract notice, as noted in the linked post.

The democrat one has FDR in that position and clearly he is the centre of attention.

I haven't bothered to look at the Democratic one (and cannot imagine doing so - tending towards a pox on both their houses perspective anyways). Is there an original version of it that another artist apparently ripped off, as in the case of the Republican painting?

The fact that Trump is the only one gazing back at the viewer simply adds to his being the 'central' figure. To be honest, just like I cannot be bothered to look at the Democratic president version(s?), I cannot be bothered to find out whether it is the original Republican club painting or the Trumped up knock-off that is on the White House. OK, we all know Trump, so the question answers itself, but I prefer facts to simply taking things on faith. After all, that is one of the clear signs of being a disloyal commenter.

(And there is a good pun or two waiting to be made about fake scenes and Trump-l'œil.)

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I rather like it. I'm puzzled that anyone could fail to see immediately that it's Teddy, Lincoln and the post-war Presidents. It's amusing that of them the two best are given the brightest shirts.

The Democrat one is not as good. The composition is poorer, the likenesses too, and the best of them - Truman - isn't given the brightest shirt. For some unaccountable reason LBJ doesn't have two little horns and a spiky tail.

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"for instance notice the Democrats are drinking beer."

The Democrat Party is widely considered the "Party of Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion".

Let's add a third "R": Racism. The Democratic Party's history towards African Americans is horrible.

That's why the Republicans regularly get 85-95% of the black vote. Why would any African American vote Democratic?

Damn good question.

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It's curious indeed.

Montages of dead rockstars, from Elvis to Kurt Cobain, cover the walls of lots of bars. There are other montages or even murals of movie stars and celebrities from a certain period. But it seems the celebrity needs to die before being considered to be part of a montage. Both reps and dems,paintings seem to break this rule of popular culture.

I'm sure they're always such paintings, and the interesting question is who chooses to hang them in their homes.

I would have thought dogs playing poker would be the obvious parallel. Oops, scanning down the page, it's there.

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There are no Founding Fathers in the painting

No shit. The Republican Party was founded in 1854.

Yes, I was surprised that no one else commented on the weirdness of Tyler's comment #1. I have to infer that if someone came to him and said, "Name all the Republican presidents," he would begin with Washington or something.

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I look forward to seeing his Whig painting.

There would only be three, Tyler was read out of the party.

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Trump’s body on TV is usually more covered in formal attire; Trump must like that the painting presents a good view of him in his shirt.

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To me, it looks like Lincoln gets by far the highest status. Like God, his face shall not be rendered by mortal art. Trump's shall; and he looks like Biff from *Back to the Future*.

But Tyler is wrong about Reagan. In this painting, Trump has one superior, but no peer. Everyone else is trying to fit in along with both the Patriarch an Biff. And only Reagan looks like he is succeeding.

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Some note a resemblance to "Dogs Playing Poker."

https://garage.vice.com/en_us/article/kzj9aa/donald-trump-dogs-playing-poker

I was assuming that it was a deliberate rip-off (or at least both a rip-off of a third picture).

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Glad to see Nikki Haley walking over to take her place at the table.

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Looking at the picture I am struck by the idea that once such pictures were the main ways leaders used propaganda to shape perception. What if that picture was the only image anyone had of Trump?

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Trump and Bush #2 are drinking a cola. Neither consumed alcohol by the time they got to the White House. Lincoln was also into Temperance, and appears to be drinking a soda.

Both the Democrat and Republican paintings have a mysterious woman walking to the table. Indicates a future, but still unknown, woman president.

Yes, the bearded man is U.S. Grant.

Indicates a future, but still unknown, woman president.

There have been four female presidential candidates to date who won some delegates: Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisolm, and Hellary (2x). None of them appear to have inspired the figure in question, who looks a tad like the comic strip character Sally Forth.

Lincoln’s drink is water, Adams’s Ale, as he called it. I find the drinks the most compelling and historically accurate part of the painting.

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My favorite part from anything TC linked to. From the interview--http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/interviews/republican-club-teachable-moment/

"[Q] What about the comparison some make to Norman Rockwell, whose work at one time was seen as saccharine and unsophisticated?

[A] I love Norman Rockwell! Norman Rockwell was a brilliant painter technically. He was considered an illustrator because his message was always very literal. He was political, of course. Consider “The Problem We All Live With,” his painting of Ruby Bridges. But Rockwell was technically a much better painter than Andy Thomas. The Trump painting is soft focus, sanitized, fantasy, with a predictable composition. Norman Rockwell might look old fashioned to some people but he offered new composition and subject matter strategies. We don’t see that here."

If more people in the humanities, and more academics generally, provided such straightforward defenses about what is of value in the past--without the slightest hint of irony or knowingness--the academy would be in a much better place. Such a refreshing response.

People who feel they already got the right answer from our fathers, don't need an academy.

I loved my father but did not always get the right answer from my father, nor does anyone. There is much more to learn that we can get from any one individual.

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He hasn't captured LBJ very well, though he may not have intended to. I can't see LBJ ever "leaning in," or needing to.

That's a strange way to put it, because Johnson was infamous for 'leaning in' to people as a persuasion tactic. I agree that he hasn't captured him well.

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Yes, supposedly he got into people's personal space. But jockeying for attention at a table like that? No, he'd be at a 45 degree angle, comfy as can be.

/\

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"Reagan is shown as Trump’s only peer, while Eisenhower is the one “closest” to Trump, and the one most appreciative. Of course many of Trump’s policy preferences seem aimed at returning us to the Eisenhower era in some way (higher tariffs, lower immigration, less regulation, etc.)"

Closest to Eisenhower, eh?

One of Trump's Thanksgiving messages was “Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very, very vicious place."

Strange days.

Of course with so many strange Thanksgiving messages, it is a little hard to choose.

https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-thanksgiving-statement-thankful-himself-1228390

Yeah, that guy would definitely hang that painting.

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Clea Felian'stedious regurgitation of schmaltzy 1940's Clement Greenberg talking points that were drummed into her head in her MFA program bespeaks the stagnation of the US fine art scene. Hitler was for beauty! Only the artist's bleeding heart will express the truth of the sorrow of the oppressed and the immorality of the bourgeoisie which is the highest calling of art. Bite me. Thankfully First Lady Melania Trump's clarion call to "Be Best" is most excellent in leading the subversion of the culture of moral exhibitionism and narcissism and spark a virtuous revolution in favor of a better and more beautiful world created by individuals striving to improve themselves and achieve more. The painting itself testifies to the importance of focusing upon your own flaws and overcoming them. Hence the glasss of soda. You can google Clea Felien. What you see is the twisted product of regimented conformism. There well may be a real artist hidden inside her but it will only come out if she heeds First Lady Melania's call. She must find the courage to be her best and not just another clever herd cud-chewer. Tyler has succeeded with this post, in demonstrating for what must now be the 2021st time that President and First Lady Trump are the smartest and most revolutionary souls in the United States.

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I think Garfield (or Rutherford B. Hayes?) is behind George H.W. Bush's right shoulder, Chet Arthur and Benjamin Harrison behind his left. Taft is off Gerald Ford's right shoulder. I don't see McKinley, one of the most effective Republican presidents.

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kitsch - excessively garish or sentimental art; usually considered in bad taste.

Since economists and the like may have not spent anytime thinking about art, sentimental art is considered "bad" because it elevates an idea without question. In this case the subject is the media identities of one party. A good artwork *might* allude to, for example, the large gulf between an individual person and his media identity held by the public.

Also, a good artwork's style should be related to it's content. In his case the style is hokey, self taught. But what does down-home hokey style have to do with media personalities that were crafted by dozens of consultants and costs millions of dollars to create? Answer: nothing.

If I must look at bad art, it can at least be beautiful. This work fails here too.

kitsch - excessively garish or sentimental art; usually considered in bad taste.

No, it means contrary to the taste of art critics, who are insufferable social parasites begging to be beaten with clubs.

There are three types of people in the world. Those who see, those who see when shown, and those who will never see.

There are three types of people in the world. Those that are like me, those that will agree with me without question, and the filthy others.

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Listen to yourself; the pot calling the kettle black.

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If I had to choose only one word for this poster, it would be 'eyesore.'

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Please tell me that the taxpayers did not pay for this piece of "Dogs Playing Poker" trash.

It's a perfectly agreeable piece of artwork. You don't like it because you're operating under the illusion that you're a superior person.

Or, of course, he doesn't like it because he is actually an inferior person, right?

No reason to pull your punches when sneering.

Your essential repulsiveness is never absent from your posts.

Come now, you are obviously an inferior person in my eyes - though your repulsiveness is hard to overlook on its own merits,

After all, no reason to pull punches with someone referencing a pillorying someone else, is there?

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Two things: 1 no comment on the female? and 2 "At first I thought it was Mephistopheles, but it turns out to be Lincoln" is the best sentence I have read all week! (grin)

The same or at least a very similar female is approaching the table in the Democrat painting.

On #9, I'll freely admit I don't know who Mephistopheles is, but unlike many others on this thread, at least I recognize when Tyler is trolling.

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Lincoln... is a passive onlooker with weak shoulders, and with no commanding or influential presence of his own.

Nonsense. It looks to me like the others are mostly paying attention to something Lincoln just said, probably something amusing.

Reagan and Eisenhower aren't looking at Lincoln, but that's probably because Thomas didn't really think about the story here.

No Caravaggio, he.

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There is a woman walking to the table?

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It hangs in the White House. Hmmm. Tony Soprano commissioned a painting of himself as a dapper gentleman with his prize horse Pie-O-My. A mob boss. Same psychology.

+1. Obama would never commission a portrait of himself. Nor do portraits of themselves hang in any of the houses of the "good billionaires". Models of humility and a lack of narcissism, it's what Obama is known for. Different psychology, right?

Obama has his own narcissism.

Trump is Vain. Obama is Conceited.

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Obama would never commission a portrait of himself.

You mean a portrait like these ugly monstrosities?

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So much speculative overthinking in this post.

Trump is well-known to drink Diet Coke. It has no significance.

Trump's plain red tie being too long is also emblematic.

George W. Bush appears relaxed to me, not haggard at all.

Hoover, Harding, and Coolidge are the least well-known and least influential presidents to contemporary audiences from among that list.

Someone has to have their back to the viewer. It might as well be the president who is most recognizable from any angle.

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Grant is in the upper left background.

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Also, Trump was drawn to look a lot slimmer than what he actually is.

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Is Lincoln a passive onlooker or is he the one doing the talking? (Telling a story?). Nixon is looking at him as if he just said something funny. So is TR and Trump and Ford and Bush Sr. Reagan and Bush Jr. are looking at TR while Eisenhower leans in as if to hear what he is saying. It looks as if he and TR are having a conversation and all the rest are onlookers.

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It's also important that Trump is depicted as much thinner and more muscular than in reality.

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Missing Putin, he did, after all, cover Trump's dues to the club.

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What hangs in the White House is NOT a painting.

It is an inexpensive print of a painting by a self-taught artist, Andy Thomas, who may well be conservative. Regardless, he knows enough about marketing (and economics), that he created basically identical images, each stocked with with idealized images of presidents from one of the major parties in the US.

The same painter did the same thing with other paintings containing nearly identical images of Republican & Democratic presidents playing cards and playing pool.

They're almost amusingly vulgar, but the conceit is sufficiently amusing to carry the day. +1 to Mr Thomas.

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