George Rodrigue, the Cajun Louisiana artist most known for his iconic “Blue Dog” paintings, died Saturday evening at a hosptial in Houston after a long battle with cancer.
He was 69.
Funeral arrangements have not been set, according to a statement from the Rodrigue family. Further details about Rodrigue’s passing are set to be released Monday.
The “Blue Dog” painting, with its bright blue fur, piercing eyes and pointy ears, became as much of a Louisiana icon as the fleur de lis and the crawfish. The original paintings brought Rodrigue to prominence in the 1990s and have spurred countless versions.
Fans had already flocked Saturday night to a Facebook fan page for Rodrigue run by Rodrigue Studio.
The family statement praised Rodrigue as a Louisiana artist through and through who advocated the value of the arts and arts education his entire life.
“While we mourn the loss of a great man, we also celebrate his rich life and legacy,” the statement said. “George will remain a presence in the hearts of the people who got to know him and his work will continue to inspire for generations to come.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal proclaimed Rodrigue as one of Louisiana’s favorite sons and an ambassador for the state.
“His work as an artist is iconic and uniquely Louisiana,” Jindal said in a statement. “George’s Blue Dog not only became symbolic of his work, but it became a symbol for Louisiana. This earned him the ability to paint the likes of world leaders including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.”
Jindal said Rodrigue never forgot his Louisiana roots while acting as an ambassador of sorts for the state.
“There are countless stories and examples of his charity work to help the people of Louisiana,” Jindal said. “Without question, his paintings will live on, but his legacy will be much more than paint on a canvas.”
Rodrigue was also Louisiana’s artist laureate.
Rodrigue was born in 1944 in New Iberia to George and Marie Rodrigue, according to the website for his foundation.
He began painting and sculpting in 1952 during a fourth-month bout with polio.
In 1959, he enrolled at the Art Instruction School and in an intensive Art Correspondence Course. In 1962, he began studying art at the University of Southwest Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
He also studied graphic arts at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles from 1965 to 1967.
In 1968, he began working as the art director for an advertising agency in Lafayette, but later left the agency to paint full time.
Bayou, a book of 40 ghost stories by Chris Segura, debuted in 1984 — it included the first Blue Dog painting, according to Rodrigue’s website.
Rodrigue’s art is the subject of 12 books, and his work was featured in numerous museum exhibitions, including 40-year career retrospectives at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens Museum in Memphis, Tenn., in 2007 and the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2008
Rodrigue had already won local acclaim for his portrayals of the landscape and people of South Louisiana when the Blue Dogs arrived.
Rodrigue’s “Blue Dog” is based off the image of the original Cajun werewolf dog, the “loup-garou,” according to his website.
He painted portraits of a number of iconic politicians, including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Louisiana’s own Edwin Edwards.
Rodrigue exhibits his original paintings and silkscreens in his own galleries in Carmel, Calif., which became a second home of sorts for the artist, as well as Lafayette and New Orleans.
Rodrigue in 2009 formed the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes youth arts educational programs around the state.
The George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts raised $2.5 million to help New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, according to his website.
In early 2013 he held his fourth annual statewide art contest for high school students. The contest has attracted 1,500 applicants since 2010 and granted more than $150,000 in scholarships, art supplies, and other aid.
Rodrigue in 2012 donated a Steinway piano emblazoned with a Blue Dog painting to the LSU School of Music.
“He was a longtime supporter of the School of Music and LSU,” said Kristin Sosnowsky, the interim dean of LSU’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts. “His commitment to arts and education through the (Louisiana) A+ Schools system has the potential to have a longterm impact throughout the state.”