15 October 2007

Bush's stipple is depressed

The cover of today's Wall Street Journal has perhaps the saddest-looking stipple portrait ever. It shows George W. Bush, eyes downcast, lips pursed, frowning slightly—the image of a president who has seen better days.

As it turns out, the Journal's hedcuts tell a fascinating story about Bush's fortunes over the past couple of years.

In April 2006, Bush was still sunny and confident. In January 2007, as the surge began, his face showed doubt and concern. Now the man is downright gloomy.

So, is this story arc intentional? Kevin Sprouls, the artist who pioneered the stipple portrait style for the Journal 20 years ago, said he doubts it. Back when he worked on the art desk, "we'd try not to editorialize," he said. "We'd go with the image that was the best likeness."

Today's drawing accompanies an interview with Bush about free trade and executive pay. Maybe they picked the glum face because voter support for free-trade initiatives is down? "There's no way to find out," Sprouls said. "I'm sure even if they were editorializing, they would deny it."

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