To create a retrospective of New Iberia artist George Rodrigue’s life, the Bayou Teche Museum asked for artwork that represented the scope of Rodrigue’s career, from his haunting live oaks to the popular Blue Dog paintings.
They received original pieces from a variety of sources, according to museum Director Marcia Patout, including some never before seen in public. The museum even pulled one off the living room wall of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
It’s all part of an exhibit called “George Rodrigue Comes Home: Under Iberia’s Live Oaks with George Rodrigue and his Blue Dog,” which opened this week and runs through April 18 at the Bayou Teche Museum in downtown New Iberia. The exhibit includes six original pieces from the Estate of George Rodrigue Collection, two from the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette and five from private collections. I n addition, Epiphany Day School in New Iberia will offer several art projects honoring Rodrigue, who died Dec. 14, 2013. The school is one of the Louisiana A+ Schools supported by the George Rodrigue Foundation, an organization dedicated to integrating arts into a full curriculum in schools.
T h e exhibit , which showcases Rodrigue’s Acadiana roots and his vast and successful career , h as been nine months in the making, P atout said .
“ Our reason was to honor George Rodrigue, a New Iberia native and world - famous artist,” she said. “And we wanted to show what a state-of-the-art museum we are and what we are capable of.”
Rodrigue was born and raised in New Iberia, attending Catholic High School before studying art at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.
His early work in the late 1960s and e arly 1970s, after Rodrigue returned to Louisiana, included scenes of Cajun life with an expansive live oak tree in the background. In his later years, his Blue Dog series, based on the French legend of the loup-garou, or South Louisiana werewolf, became world famous.
While h i s early paintings were darker and m ore sober , his B lue Dog artwork t ended to include brighter colors and more whimsical subjects.
T he exhibit includes one of Rodrigue’s first paintings, titled “The Shadows in New Iberia.”
“ He graduated Catholic High in 1962 , and he painted this in 1969, so this is one of his earliest ones, ” Patout said of the painting. “ I t’s very dark. The trees are very dark.”
T he Hilliard University is loaning for the exhibit the 1984 work “My Jolie Blonde Doll , ” a dreamy portrait of a blond woman named after the early Cajun song. There also will b e several B lue Dog paintings a nd a recent painting containing his signature tree, the 2012 “Hebert Oak,” Patout said.
“ He almost came full circle,” Patout said.
I n addition, the exhibit contains a pastel sketch and the abstract “Hurricane Elena” on a 46-inch round canvas.
A ll the pieces displayed, including the B lue Dog paintings, have Rodrigue’s i c onic oak trees , which many believe originated in Iberia Parish.
“ That’s the only thing we demanded (of the exhibit’s paintings) , was that they have an oak tree,” Patout said.