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Portraits of President, First Lady Unveiled

WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush's two terms in office have been marked by wars, a global financial crisis, and a steady stream of political opposition. 

But his portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, unveiled Friday, shows him at ease and smiling, seemingly unfazed by eight years of tumult. 

Bush's portrait, along with one of first lady Laura Bush, will be displayed with all the other presidential portraits at the gallery. 

Bush wanted painter Robert Anderson, a Yale classmate of the president's, to give him a more informal look for his likeness at the National Portrait Gallery. Anderson painted the portrait to engage viewers with the president in a "personal and conversational manner," according to an event program. 

"I needed to find a person who would do the painting that would be a good and forgiving friend," Bush said of Anderson. "It actually looks like me, which is a good sign. You did a fabulous job." 

Bush and G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, pulled a blue cloth off the portrait. The relaxed image of Bush, with his hands gently folded and a vase of flowers behind him, will stay at the Portrait Gallery, which holds the nation's only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House

"That means this exhibit now has an interesting symmetry. It starts with George W. -- and ends with George W.," Bush joked. 

This was the first time the gallery presented the official likenesses of a sitting president and first lady. Bush has about a month left in office. 

"It's a humbling experience to be included here among so many extraordinary leaders," the president said. "One of the great things about this collection is that visitors can examine the faces of the men who have shaped our nation's history -- and study how history has shaped them." 

The president's portrait was based on photographs of President Bush at Camp David in April and September this year. 

Laura Bush's portrait was painted by Aleksander Titovets, a native Russian painter who now lives in El Paso, Texas. The first lady, a literacy advocate and former librarian, is holding a book in her hands. The background is a favorite spot in the private quarters of the White House, with a window behind her showing the neighboring Old Executive Office Building. 

Earlier this month at a private club, Bush presided over the unveiling of another portrait of himself that was commissioned by the Abraham Lincoln Foundation. It showed Bush staring straight ahead, looking comfortable but not quite smiling, against the backdrop of the White House's Treaty Room. 

Like the president did at that unveiling, Bush joked Friday about his portrait "hanging." 

"I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging," Bush said to about 500 people at the event, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Chief Justice John Roberts.

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