Tuesday, March 17, 2009

L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator in Iraq, is an artist. For the past two years, the one-time diplomat has been painting bucolic landscapes inspired by trips to the Maryland countryside and his vacation house in Vermont. He recently posted his art on a Web site (www.bremerenterprises.com) after selling about half of his canvases at an exhibition in Vermont in September.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” Mr. Bremer says by telephone. “I grew up in an atmosphere of art and studied art history at Yale.”

His childhood home was a 1949 modernist design by noted Harvard-trained architect Eliot Noyes in New Canaan, Conn., near Philip Johnson’s famous Glass House. His mother taught art and architectural history at the University of Bridgeport.

Mr. Bremer says he decided to take up painting after finishing his 2006 book, “My Year in Iraq.” These days, he serves on several corporate boards but devotes most of his spare time to painting and cooking. He has taken art classes taught by local painter Walter Bartman at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo and plans to sign up for another course this spring. “I am just a beginner,” he says.

Most of his canvases are painted outdoors to capture local landmarks such as Swain’s Lock on the C&O Canal and Poole’s General Store in Seneca. His winter scenes of snowy barns in New England start with a plein-air sketch and are completed indoors with the aid of photographs.

His inspiration? “I particularly like the Hudson River School and French and American impressionism.”

His favorite artist is Paul Cezanne. “His blues and blue-greens appeal to me and the way he uses planes and blocks of color,” Mr. Bremer says.

Time spent in Baghdad has had no influence on his painting, he says, but he uses Iraqi ingredients such as pomegranate molasses and dried limes in his gourmet cooking.

He is glad Iraq’s ransacked National Museum in Baghdad reopened last month and notes that “a lot of stuff that was taken during the looting was returned [to the museum]. I would love to get back there to see it, but for security reasons, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.”

The fledgling artist will have a second exhibition of his work in September in Grafton, Vt., where he plans to display about 25 works priced from $300 to $500. Proceeds will go to the Grafton Historical Society.

“Art is work, but enjoyable work,” says Mr. Bremer, who is thinking about writing another book on his experiences in Iraq. “When it’s done, you get a feeling of satisfaction.”

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