Cajun Artist George Rodrigue and His Famous Werewolf
LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick
Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries.
How many artists gain notoriety painting evil guard dogs? Cajun artist George Rodrigue just might be the only one.
George got his start painting the landscapes and people of Southern Louisiana in the third grade while recovering from polio. He also grew up on local stories about the loup-garou, a French word meaning werewolf.
As a kid his mom teased him that if he didn’t behave himself today the werewolf would get him tonight. Except in her version the evil creature wasn’t quite a werewolf. It was more like a ghost dog or crazy wolf that hung out in cemeteries and sugar cane fields waiting to lunge.
Either way the image stuck.
In 1980 an investment group in Baton Rouge asked George to come up with illustrations for a book about Louisiana ghost stories to be sold at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.
The artist began researching local myths and legends to evoke imagery. He ended up creating one painting over a three year period for each of the 40 stories in a book written by Chris Segura.
He completed his illustrations long before the text was actually written and he did it from themes and titles relating to well-known regional legends. Full of colossal oak trees and ghostly characters the text is known as the Bayou collection.
There was one story in the collection “Slaughter House” which stood out for people. It told of an evil dog guarding a house. George remembered the werewolf stories of his youth and painted the loup-garou.
In creating the image George remembered his terrier-spaniel Tiffany who died four years earlier. She had the perfect shape and stance he wanted and that’s where the similarities ended. The blue-grey demon with piercing yellow eyes George painted for the book sat guarding the front of a red haunted house. He liked the color and strong image and over the next five to six years painted dozens more. His sad-sack mutts were always in the bayou and always harkened back to the Cajun legend of his childhood and the loup-garou.
It’s an iconic, eerie image people say they rarely forget in his work.
“The yellow eyes are really the soul of the dog,” he said. “He has this piercing stare. People say the dog keeps talking to them with his eyes, always saying something different.”
The dog never changes position, just watches you as you watch him. George said the dog is really about life and about people searching for answers and coming up empty.
“The dog doesn’t know. You can see this longing in his eyes, this longing for love, answers,” he said.
Along with his blue-dog paintings George continued painting Louisiana landscapes, outdoor family gatherings and genre scenes of the 19th and early-20th century. He also painted portraits including celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme, Huey Long, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
On December 14, 2013 George Rodrigue died at the age of 69.
On March 15-16 New Orleans Auction Galleries featured a selection of his paintings in its spring auction. Here are some current values.
Oak on the Broussard Farm; oil on canvas; signed, titled and dated; 1989; 8 inches by 10 inches; $13,530.
Lipstick on My Man; acrylic on canvas; signed, titled and dated; 2004; 20 inches by 16 inches; $23,370.
That’s Amore; oil on canvas; signed, titled and dated; 1996; 24 inches by 18 inches; $39,360.
Yellow Rolls of Jolie Blonde; oil on canvas; signed, title and dated; 1989; 24 inches by 30 inches; $46,740.
Untitled; oil on canvas; signed; 53 inches by 84 inches; $67,650.