George Rodrigue’s portrait of Shirley Ann Grau, 1983
Beginning in 1980, George Rodrigue painted the portrait of each year’s guest lecturer at what we now call the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The speaker series was conceived by Professor Maurice DuQuesnay and funded by the friend he made at the Lafayette synagogue, Flora Levy, an heiress and philanthropist who eventually left her fortune to the university.
Rodrigue lived in Lafayette at the time, and he supported the university where he attended his first intensive art classes. That time included his studies with Professor Calvin Harlan in 1963, where Rodrigue created a design book over many months — a project that ultimately landed him at a prestigious graduate school, the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.
In most cases the speakers posed for photographs which Rodrigue then used as a guide in painting their portrait. DuQuesnay provided a list of key elements from important works by each guest lecturer to incorporate into the portrait. These portraits became a way for Rodrigue to give back to his alma mater.
The exhibition includes portraits of Flora Levy, Robert Coles, Bruno Bettelheim, Peter Gay, Walker Percy, Father Avery Dulles, Sophie Freud and others.
This exhibition is a partnership between the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. The exhibit is on view at the University Art Museum in Lafayette through Jan. 2.