Locals remember Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue

Published: Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 15:08 PM.

Local restaurateur AJ Tusa agrees.

Tusa was friends with Rodrigue for 37 years. They met at Tusa's restaurant in New Orleans.

"When he laughed from so deep inside himself everyone in the room became happy," said Tusa. "He was extremely warm hearted. He gave a lot of charity donations and helped survivors of Katrina. He helped in the inner city of New Orleans through his foundation and gave his personal money, some to students and some to artists. When people met him, they wanted to hug him as they sensed his sincerity. When he shook your hand you knew someone cared. There was nothing superficial," said Tusa.

Rodrigue created a different type of art, said Tusa, and he wasn't accepted in the New Orleans art world at first.

"No one's feet touched the ground in his paintings,” he said. “There was something magical about it. But there was a certain amount of sadness in his early pieces."

Freeport artist Eileen West managed a gallery in the Vieux Carre district of New Orleans back in the 1980s which carried many paintings by Rodrigue before Tiffany, the Blue Dog, came to him in a dream and made him a star. The older paintings were masterful images of the bayous and the people who lived there, she remembers: giant dark live oaks with draping Spanish moss, quiet reflections on the still water, and the people playing Bourre or strolling.

"He was an accomplished painter who loved his parish and then became an international celebrity," said West. "Louisiana is right to honor him; he has honored his home place."



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