If you are at all attuned to art that features dogs, you’re no doubt familiar with the Blue Dog, the wildly popular creation of artist George Rodrigue, which captured popular attention years ago and became a fixture in his art. Rodrigue was a noted Louisiana Cajun folk artist before he painted the first Blue Dog in 1984, but the pup put him in another category — pop artist. The Blue Dog even appeared in an Absolut Vodka campaign, as well as all over Louisiana, the artist’s cherished home.
Rodrigue, a native of southwest Louisiana, died Saturday of cancer. He was 69.
Many noted Louisiana residents came out to praise and remember the man.
“His work made him an ambassador for our state and a renowned artist, but he never forgot his Louisiana roots,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, according to NOLA.com. “Indeed, there are countless stories and examples of his charity work to help the people of Louisiana. Without question, his paintings will live on, but his legacy will be much more than paint on a canvas.”
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said: “In many Louisiana homes next to a fleur de lis, you’ll find a George Rodrigue Blue Dog painting. It is a testament to his artistic ability to illustrate the character and spirit of the Cajun culture and Louisiana on canvas.”
The Blue Dog painting first came about when Rodrigue was working on an illustration project for a book on Louisiana ghost stories, according to an essay by Rodrigue’s wife, Wendy Rodrigue. It turns about he based Blue Dog on his own dog, Tiffany, who had kept the painter company in the years before Blue Dog.
According to the essay, “He had many photographs of his dog Tiffany (deceased already four years at this point), and he thought that her shape and stance would work well for his purposes. Mind you, he was not trying to recreate his cute terrier-spaniel mix that lived in his home since she was a puppy, named ‘Tiffany’ to make her feel important as the runt of the litter and the last puppy left in the box.”
“More than anything, Tiffany was his studio companion. George paints sometimes all night, and no one else sat up watching, but Tiffany did, and he snapped hundreds of photos of her over the years just by grabbing his camera, leaning off of his stool, and capturing her expression as she stared up at him at his easel.”