As Texas governor, President Bush admired a 1916 painting by W.H.D. Koehner hanging in his office. In 1995, Bush wrote a memo to his Texas staff describing the artwork:
[T]he painting is based upon the Charles Wesley hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have”. I am particularly impressed by the second verse of this hymn. The second verse goes like this: “To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will.” [...]
When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us.
But in his new book, The Bush Tragedy, Jacob Weisberg explains that the painting has nothing to do with the hymn and “circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century.” It actually depicts a horse bandit:
The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors.
Scott Horton has more.