Dec 16, 2013 7:05 AM by AP
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - "Blue Dog" painter George Rodrigue was an important figure in a generation of artists who connected to people and traditions of Louisiana's Cajun culture, professors say.
Rodrigue, a native of southwest Louisiana, was 69 when he died of cancer Saturday in Houston. His family is expected to announce funeral plans Monday.
Barry Ancelet, French and humanities professor at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told the Town Talk that Rodrigue was a visionary who helped define Cajun culture.
"He did for art what Paul Prudhomme did for cooking and Clifton Chenier did for music," Ancelet said.
Gordon Brooks, dean of the College of the Arts at UL Lafayette, said Rodrigue was a classically trained artist who returned to Louisiana and "began painting what was in front of him: the swamp, the landscape and the tree."
"He was true to his Cajun heritage," Brooks said. "Even though he was classically trained, I heard him talk about those paintings and how they were rustic in style. But they had meaning to him because they were his roots."
Rodrigue's long career could be divided into several parts, Brooks said. In his more traditional work, he was a "chronicler, someone who chronicled early Cajun people gathered at the table, outside." With the Blue Dog, which started appearing in Rodrigue's work in the 1980s, he did more "pop art," not unlike Andy Warhol, Brooks said.
"It was very popular and iconic," he said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Rodrigue's art came to symbolize Louisiana.
"His work made him an ambassador for our state and a renowned artist, but he never forgot his Louisiana roots," Jindal said. "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."