George Rodrigue, Absolute Louisiana, lithograph, from limited edition, numbered 358/400, 1991. Signed and numbered by the artist in pencil below image. Rodrigue was selected to represent the state of Louisiana in Absolut Vodka's "Absolut Statehood" campaign. "Absolut Louisiana" appeared as a full page in USA Today in the fall of 1992. All 400 prints sold out in a matter of hours, and all of the proceeds benefited the American Cancer Society. This composition features Rodrigue's famous and most endearing Blue Dog accompanied by a Louisiana gator (to signify his Cajun roots) approaching a bottle of Absolut being used as a vase for beautiful red flowers set before a dreamy Louisiana landscape lit by the red glow of dawn or dusk. Rodrigue's piece was touted as the most successful image of the "Absolut Statehood" campaign. Size: image measures 21.75" W x 26.5" H (55.2 cm x 67.3 cm); sheet measures 26" W x 39" H (66 cm x 99.1 cm)
"Absolut Statehood" was one of Absolut Vodka's most ambitious art projects. Over the course of 2 years, the campaign featured one work each from the 50 American states and the District of Columbia; each was created by a talented local artist who was from that state. Every other week, one of these works appeared in USA Today.
Rodrigue is best known for the Blue Dog series featuring a mesmerizing pup of blue hues, modeled on the artist's deceased dog named Tiffany and also influenced by the Loup Garou legend, who we see in this image with a scarlet red security blanket or hoodie upon his ears and cascading over his body. The ghostly blue-hued spaniel/terrier is usually depicted with a white nose and yellow eyes. Interestingly, this imagery also played a role in coining the term Blue Dog Democrat, which generally refers to a conservative member of the Democratic Party. In 1998, Rodrigue told the New York Times that, "The yellow eyes are really the soul of the dog. He has this piercing stare. People say the dog keeps talking to them with the eyes, always saying something different." Rodrigue continued, "People who have seen a Blue Dog painting always remember it. They are really about life, about mankind searching for answers. The dog never changes position. He just stares at you. And you're looking at him, looking for some answers, 'Why are we here?' and he's just looking back at you, wondering the same. The dog doesn't know. You can see this longing in his eyes, this longing for love, answers."
George Rodrigue was a Cajun artist who grew up in Louisiana. He studied art at the University of Southwest Louisiana (now called the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in the mid-1960s and also attended the Art Center College of Design (then in Los Angeles; now in Pasadena) from 1965 to 1967. In the late 1960s, a young Rodrigue began painting picturesque landscapes of lush Arcadia in the French Louisiana bayou, beautiful scenes featuring breathtaking moss covered oak trees; however, his Blue Dog paintings based on the legend of a ghost dog known as loup-garou were what made him famous. The seed for this unforgettable canine came about in 1984, when Rodrigue was commissioned to create artwork for a series of Cajun ghost stories. Rodrigue's model, his own dog named Tiffany (then deceased), was actually a black and white dog, but she became blue with yellow eyes in the artist's imagination. In addition, she sometimes was depicted as a male rather than a female dog. The Blue Dog became immensely popular in 1992 when Absolut Vodka honored Rodrigue as an Absolut Vodka artist, joining the ranks of Pop artist Andy Warhol and glass artist Hans Godo Frabel. Interestingly, Rodrigue created earlier works that honored his Cajun culture such as "The Aioli Dinner" (1971) in which he presents traditional Cajun gatherings on plantation lawns as well as his book entitled, "The Cajuns of George Rodrigue" (1976).
According to Rodrigue's published New York Times obituary, "Mr. Rodrigue boasted that it was not uncommon for his Blue Dog paintings to sell for $25,000. Some were rumored to have sold for 10 times that. He painted Blue Dogs with presidents, with naked women in faux French scenes, on the lawn with his Aioli dining club party, inside a soup can, in ads for Absolut Vodka and next to Marilyn Monroe (returning jabs, perhaps, at those who dismissed him as a Pop Art opportunist). Critics were not always impressed, but he said he did not care."
Provenance: private Boulder, Colorado, USA collection
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