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Portraits Of President And Mrs. Bush

When Lyndon Johnson saw his White House portrait, he snapped, ''That's the ugliest thing I ever saw.'' When Nancy Reagan saw Ronald Reagan's portrait, she ordered it redone.

George Bush came back to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait July 17. And his appraisal was exactly what every artist wants to hear. ''I'm inclined to think it's pretty darned good,'' the former president said with a slight smile.

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''We appreciate your work so much, sir,'' he said to the artist, Herbert E. Abrams, who also did the White House portrait of Jimmy Carter.

President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, escorted the former president and first lady to the East Room. ''Welcome home,'' Clinton said. ''We're glad to have you back.''

Mr. Bush and his wife, Barbara, were welcomed with thunderous applause from members of his Cabinet, his White House staff and former Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn, all gathered in the East Room. Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush - and now a possible presidential candidate - was there too, sitting next to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, dean of the diplomatic corps.

The former president winked and smiled at old friends in the audience.

''I've got to be careful about this nostalgic beat, but I see the photo dogs and I miss them,'' Bush said of the White House photographers who used to watch his every move.

He also singled out a handful of reporters by name and said, ''I even miss you - and I never thought I'd say that.''

Bush wasn't the only one who liked the portrait. ''I think the artist did a wonderful job, and we're all in his debt,'' President Clinton said. ''But I also want to say, President Bush, if I look half as good as you do when I leave office, I'll be a happy man.''

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Bush's portrait will hang outside the East Room in the Grand Foyer, across from the portrait of President Franklin Roosevelt, the commander in chief he served in World War II.

''It will stand as a reminder of George Bush's basic integrity and decency and of his entire adult lifetime devoted to public service,'' Clinton said.

Bush's portrait depicts him looking fit and smiling faintly, standing in his office in the White House residence.

A portrait Mr. Abrams painted of Mrs. Bush, depicting her sitting in front of a bookcase, symbolic of her lifelong campaign to promote literacy, also was unveiled. At her side is a picture of Millie, the Bushes' beloved springer spaniel.

Mrs. Bush's painting will hang adjacent to the Vermeil Room on the ground floor corridor, amid the pictures of other first ladies.

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