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The Becker “Blue Dog” Barn in Springwater NY

The Becker barn is located about 2 miles south of the Springwater village on State Route 15. For a while it had the “Blue Dog” by George Rodrigue painted on its north facing wall. The “Blue Dog” was used as a logo on Absolut vodka. The “Blue Dog” also helped to coin the term Blue Dog Democrat, which refers to a conservative member of the Democratic Party. The Blue Dog has been painted over.

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The Becker barn south of Springwater NY as it appeared in 2000. George Rodrigue, the southern artist, painted the “Blue Dog” poster as a part of his Blue Dog series. The Blue Dog has been painted over.

Click any image to enlarge.

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Another photo of the Becker barn in 2000 taken by Theresa Kraft. The Blue Dog has been painted over.

Biography of George Rodrigue

George Rodrigue (born March 13, 1944) is a Cajun artist who grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. Rodrigue began painting outdoor family gatherings framed by moss-clad oak trees in an area of French Louisiana known as Acadiana.

Rodrigue attended the Brothers of the Christian Schools all-male high school called St. Peter’s College, (now a Catholic High School) which was located near St. Peter’s Church, and on the banks of the Bayou Teche as it runs through New Iberia. He studied art formally at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then named the University of Southwestern Louisiana) and the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. He later trained in New York, and became well known for his abstract expressionism of Cajun subjects, inspired by his roots.

Rodrigue’s early notable works include The Aioli Dinner and Three Oaks. His most famous works include the Acadian heroine, Evangeline, portrayed in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847) and the Cajun modern-day Evangeline, Jolie Blonde. He also designed three posters for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which feature portraits of Louis Armstrong, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. Between 1985 and 1989, Rodrigue painted the Saga of the Acadians, a series of fifteen paintings chronicling the Acadian journey from France to Nova Scotia to Louisiana and ending with the official return visit to Grand Pre.

The Blue Dog Series

More recently and worldwide he is known for his creation of the Blue Dog series of paintings, featuring a blue-hued dog, attributed to his deceased dog named Tiffany and influenced by the Loup Garou legend-the first painting in the series bears the title Loup Garou. The Blue Dog was made popular by Absolut Vodka in 1992, when Rodrigue was honored as an Absolut Vodka artist, joining famous artists such as Andy Warhol and glass artist Hans Godo Frabel. The Blue Dog was used by both Absolut Vodka and the Xerox Corporation through national ad campaigns. The blue-hued, ghostly spaniel/terrier is often featured with a white nose and yellow eyes. His symbol helped coin the term Blue Dog Democrat, which refers to a conservative member of the Democratic Party.

Rodrigue has galleries in Aspen, Colorado; Carmel, California; Lafayette, Louisiana; and New Orleans, Louisiana. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on May 17, 2009.

Article about George Rodrigue on ESPN

Iconic Blue Dog shows LSU colors

By Cam Martin in January 2012.

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George Rodrique unveils the “A Number One Tiger Fan” print at the LSU Museum of Art.

When he was in high school in Louisiana, artist George Rodrigue - renowned worldwide for his Blue Dog series, which was immortalized in an Absolut Vodka campaign and is now the centerpiece for an LSU football fundraising campaign - was kicked out of class by a teacher because he wouldn’t stop drawing. Rodrigue chuckles now at the memory, because that same teacher was also a local baseball coach, one who happened to tell Ron Guidry, aka, “Louisiana Lightning,” to pack it up because he’d never amount to anything on the field.

“Those were his two claims to fame,” says Rodrigue, 67, adding that the teacher, Ray Blanco, is now a friend of his.

Rodrigue was born and raised in New Iberia, La., the heart of Cajun country and the backdrop to many of his paintings. The iconic native oak trees of his home state have often been a centerpiece of his works (and serve as the logo for his educational foundation). But it was his take on the Cajun legend of the loup-garou (or werewolf dog, a boogeyman tale imported from France) that made his career. A new variation called “A Number One Tiger Fan” features Blue Dog wearing an LSU jersey. More than 3,000 copies of this $500 item have been sold, with all proceeds benefitting the Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF), the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA), the LSU Museum of Art (LSUMOA) and Louisiana State University.

“It’s been very successful . . . wonderful,” Rodrigue says.

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The “A Number One Tiger Fan” painting rests on George Rodrique’s easel in his studio.

A huge Louisiana sports fan, Rodrigue was in the stands when LSU beat Oklahoma for the 2003 national championship and also when the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl two years ago.

“That was a great game. We sat in the middle of a bunch of Colts fans, and we’re doing all our Saints cheers. We got the Who Dats and the What Dats. And I turn to a Colts fan and say, ‘Whaddya got?’ And he’s like, well, all we got is ‘Go Colts.’”

Rodrigue first drew the Blue Dog for a book of Cajun ghost stories in 1984. The enchanting image was immediately popular, and over the following decades the dog has appeared in more than 5,000 incarnations. Though based on the aforementioned tale of the loup-garou, Blue Dog’s features -- in particular, its uniquely angled ears -- were inspired by Rodrigue’s late beloved dog, Tiffany, whose dog bowl is immortalized in a popular 1992 Absolut Vodka ad. Rodrigue and Andy Warhol were among the few artists honored with inclusion in the campaign.

Blue Dog typically has yellow eyes and, of course, a blue coat. But Rodrigue often creates variations that reflect national news or pop culture. Following 9/11, for instance, Blue Dog was turned white with stark red eyes, a reflection of the horror and sadness of the event. Proceeds from sales went to the American Red Cross. After Hurricane Katrina, Blue Dog was drawn partially submerged, a piece Rodrigue titled “We Will Rise Again.” Sales helped raise more than $2 million for hurricane disaster relief, as did silk-screens that Rodrigue painted of Blue Dog alongside Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees.

Rodrigue has been going to LSU games for more than 40 years, and in 2003 his painting of LSU mascot Mike the Tiger sitting in an oak tree helped raise more than $1 million to build the animal a new habitat.

“Giving back - it’s great if you have the power to do that,” Rodrigue says.

An exhibit of his work at LSU last year prompted him to create “A Number One Tiger Fan.” The football team began the season ranked No. 4 nationally, and sales of the artwork took off when the team rose to No. 1 in the rankings, beating hated rival and BCS title game opponent Alabama along the way.

The rematch between the two teams is taking place Monday night at the Superdome in New Orleans, but Rodrigue won’t be able to make it. He has commitments he can’t break in California, where he also has a home and a studio. But he’s definitely going to be watching. And he’ll be doing it in grand New Orleans style. “I got a big party planned for it,” he says.

Editor’s note: Cam Martin is a contributor to espn. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at cdavidmartin@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter:@CameronDMartin.

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