Born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana, artist George Rodrigue (1944 – 2013) is best known for his Blue Dog paintings, which catapulted him to worldwide fame in the early 1990s. His art studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette followed by the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California gave him a foundation that spawned one of the greatest success stories in southern art.
Rodrigue is the subject of twelve books on his art, published nationally and internationally as well as numerous museum exhibitions, including forty-year career retrospectives at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens Museum in Memphis, Tennessee (2007) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (2008), both of which broke museum records at those locations for living artists or contemporary shows.
Rodrigue, who began painting in the third grade while bedridden with polio, had already won local acclaim for his rich portrayals of the landscape and people of South Louisiana when Blue Dog transformed the image of the original Cajun werewolf dog — the loup-garou — into an international pop icon. Rodrigue’s early notable works include The Aioli Dinner, which divides its time between the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Class of Marie Courrege, which won an Honorable Mention from Le Salon in Paris France, 1975, prompting the French newspaper, Le Figaro, to dub Rodrigue "America's Rousseau." His most famous works include the Acadian heroine, Evangeline, portrayed in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847) and the Cajun modern-day Evangeline, Jolie Blonde. He also designed three posters for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which feature portraits of Louis Armstrong, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. Between 1985 and 1989, Rodrigue painted the Saga of the Acadians, a series of fifteen paintings chronicling the Acadian journey from France to Nova Scotia to Louisiana and ending with the official return visit to Grand Pré.
More recently and worldwide he is known for his creation of the Blue Dog series of paintings, featuring a blue-hued dog. He used the shape and stance of his deceased dog named Tiffany and was primarily influenced by the loup-garou legend—the first painting in the series bears the title Watch Dog, painted for Bayou, a book of Louisiana ghost stories. The Blue Dog was made popular by Absolut Vodka in 1992, when Rodrigue was honored as an Absolut Vodka artist, joining famous artists such as Andy Warhol and glass artist Hans Godo Frabel. The Blue Dog was used by both Absolut Vodka and the Xerox Corporation through national ad campaigns. The blue-hued, ghostly spaniel/terrier is most often featured with a white a muzzle, black nose and yellow eyes.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on May 17, 2009. In 2011 the Boy Scouts of America honored Rodrigue with the Distinguished Eagle Award. In 2013 he received the Opus Award from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. “The yellow eyes are really the soul of the dog,” Mr. Rodrigue told The New York Times in 1998. “He has this piercing stare. People say the dog keeps talking to them with the eyes, always saying something different. People who have seen a Blue Dog painting always remember it. They are really about life, about mankind searching for answers. The dog never changes position. He just stares at you. And you’re looking at him, looking for some answers, "Why are we here?," and he’s just looking back at you, wondering the same. The dog doesn’t know. You can see this longing in his eyes, this longing for love, answers.”
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