NEW IBERIA, LA (WAFB) - Famous local artist and New Iberia native George Rodrigue, best known for his Blue Dog paintings, died Saturday in Houston after a battle with cancer, WWL-TV reported. He was 69.
Rodrigue's family released the following statement:
"We are heartbroken to share the news that George Rodrigue has passed away after a long battle with cancer. George was our loving husband, father and friend.
George Rodrigue was also a gifted artist who set out to paint Louisiana as he knew it by visually interpreting the landscape and the rich history of the Cajun people. Later in his career his Blue Dog paintings captured hearts and minds around the world.
He was not only a painter, but also a true community leader in his native Louisiana and second home of Carmel, California. George remained an advocate of the arts and arts-education throughout his life and dedicated himself to inspiring the next generation of artists and educators through his foundation, the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.
While we mourn the loss of a great man, we also celebrate his rich life and legacy. 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."
According to his official website, Rodrigue gained worldwide fame in the 1990's. His studies in art at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette followed by the Art Center College in Pasadena, California provided him with a successful beginning in southern art.
Rodrigue's career as an artist did not, however, began with his popular Blue Dog collection. He began painting as early as the third grade while bedridden with polio. Later on, in his adulthood, the skill of his talents spread locally. He was acclaimed for his portrayals of the South Louisianan landscape and its inhabitants.
Wendy Rodrigue, wife of the famed artist, blogged about the beginning of the now internationally iconic Blue Dog on her website, www.wendyrodrigue.com . In 1980, Rodrigue was asked to be part of creating a Louisiana tribute of ghost stories that would be sold in the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans. Of the many paintings he created, Rodrigue became inspired by the Slaughter House story – the Cajun tale of an evil dog called Loup-garou that guards a house. His creation was a ghostly, blue dog with yellow eyes and a white nose -- named Tiffany after his own dog which passed away years before.
The series of the Blue Dog paintings gained more and more attention. It was also used by Xerox in national ad campaigns and graced several New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival posters, featuring Louis Armstrong, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt, WWL-TV reports.
Rodrigue has used his fame to sponsor many philanthropic projects through his own George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. Rodrigue sold prints of his work to help with post-Katrina relief, raising $2.5 million in funds. Earlier in 2013, he held his fourth annual statewide art contest for high school juniors and seniors, and granted over $150,000 in scholarships, art supplies, and other aids.
Governor Jindal issued a statement saying that Louisiana has lost an icon, "Supriya and I were saddened to learn of the passing this evening of a friend and one of Louisiana's favorite sons, George Rodrigue. His work as an artist is iconic and uniquely Louisiana," he said. "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 continued, "His work made him an ambassador for our state and a renowned artist, but he never forgot his Louisiana roots. Indeed, there are countless stories and examples of his charity work to help the people of Louisiana." He adds, "Without question, his paintings will live on, but his legacy will be much more than paint on a canvas."
Former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco also expressed her condolences to the Rodrigue family. "We are saddened to learn of the death of our dear friend George Rodrigue and we offer our deepest sympathies to his wife Wendy and his sons Jacques and Andre," she said.
In addition, Blanco commented on the loss that the state of Louisiana feels, "Louisiana lost a magnificent artist who loved and chronicled the lives of our people. He gained national and international attention when he painted his now very famous Blue Dog." She expressed, "George Rodrigue was a personal and close friend of ours going back to the years when Raymond taught him at Catholic High School of New Iberia....We will miss him dearly."
Funeral arrangements are pending. His family informed that more details would be released on Monday, December 16th.
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.