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Artist surprised his fantasy painting of Trump is hanging in the White House

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Artist surprised his fantasy painting of Trump is hanging in the White House

The Republican Club by Andy Thomas
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Courtesy Andy Thomas
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Donald Trump, Abraham Lincoln and Richard Nixon walk into a bar...

That's not the beginning of a bad joke, but the rather the subject of a recent painting by artist Andy Thomas called "The Republican Club" that's hanging in the White House.

The image created a stir on social media after it was spotted on a wall in the White House during a "60 Minutes" interview with Trump that aired Sunday night. In an interview with NBC News on Monday Thomas said he was shocked to see his work in the White House.

"I'd been working, and I turned on the football game," the Missouri native said. "Then (my wife) saw that social media lit up" and the phone calls began pouring in.

The painting is fantasy scene that Thomas created in which Trump is seen hobnobbing over drinks with past presidents of the Grand Old Party: Lincoln; both Bushes; Nixon; Teddy Roosevelt; Dwight Eisenhower; Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

The painting is part of a series Thomas created, which reimagines historical figures socializing in various contexts. In 2008, he painted past Republican presidents playing poker and a subsequent portrait of the same subjects playing pool. He also painted Democratic presidents playing poker and pool.

The foreground of "The Republican Club" shows a noticeably thinner version of a smiling Trump seated between Eisenhower and Nixon. Across from Trump are Lincoln, Reagan and George W. Bush while Ford, Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush are standing around the table. The seated men have drinks — Trump's is non-alcoholic — and they are all smiling.

Reprints range from $155 to $1,700, depending on size and other factors. The artist is still in possession of the original.

Thomas told NBC News the presidents in The Republican Club are "story-telling" and Lincoln and Trump, in particular, are the storytellers.

"I imagine everything Lincoln said was funny, so I always want to have him being funny," he said. "There's some sort of give and take between Trump and Lincoln and everyone is in on the story."

He added, "I'm going to make them all good looking and having a really, really good time. We don't really know how they would get along, certainly, they have different personalities."

The background also has familiar faces of other Republican presidents, such as William Taft, in the club. Thomas said all the remaining GOP presidents are included in the background. There is also a shadowy figure of a woman approaching Trump's table.

Thomas said she's intended as a message he has placed in paintings depicting both Republican and Democratic presidents that there will be a woman president one day. "Well, sure, a woman will walk up to take their place," he said.

Thomas said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who commissioned a self-portrait from him, gave a reproduction of The Republican Club to Trump.

Thomas said Trump called him a few weeks ago to praised the painting.

"I got a call couple weeks ago. It was a really gracious phone call and he had a kind voice," Thomas said, adding that while he knew the painting had been given to Trump, he had no idea until "60 Minutes" that he had actually hung it. "I was happily surprised it was hanging in the office there somewhere."

He added, "I suddenly felt too good to go do work out in the backyard."