Tee Teddie (Won’t You Be My Teddy Bear?)

At 4×3 feet, Tee Teddie is anything but tee.  The painting, begun in 1995 and completed in 2013, first hung in Café Tee George, artist George Rodrigue’s original Lafayette restaurant, which was replaced by the Blue Dog Café after burning in 1997.  Tee Teddie was the only painting to escape the flames, while interpretations of Elvis, the Blue Dog, and Cajun traditions remain lost forever.

“I painted Tee Teddieto accompany Elvis and his Hound Dog on opposite walls of the restaurant’s bandstand,” recalls George.  “Café Tee George’s theme was early memorabilia, including cowboy comic book covers, old time metal signs, and personal items, such as my barber chair and 25-year crawfish collection.  All was lost or severely  damaged except Tee Teddie, which sustained only smoke damage, darkening its colors.”

(pictured, George’s mother, Marie Rodrigue, stands outside of Café Tee George, 1996, Lafayette, Louisiana; click photo to enlarge-)

As a child, Rodrigue was known as “Baby George” or “Tee George” because his father was George, Sr.  By high school, however, his friends called him “Big Rod,” and he lost the ‘tee’ reference until his restaurant opened in 1995, some thirty years later.  Tee Teddie combines these ideas, a huge painted bear and an endearing childhood reference to small.

The painting also recalls a series of works based on George’s notion of the Blue Dog wearing a bear suit, resulting in numerous images throughout the mid-1990s (some pictured here).

Following the fire, George stored the painting first in his Lafayette warehouse and then in our Carmel, California home, where it hung on the wall for more than a decade.  Although undamaged by fire, Tee Teddie seemed unfinished to George for years, more a symbol of a lost idea, something that escaped the flames but not his psyche.

“I thought of the painting for some reason recently and decided after all this time to restore it like it was.  Once I started, I realized how good it is, and I kept working, repainting it completely in my colors and style of today.” –George Rodrigue

(pictured, George Rodrigue with his finished Tee Teddie, February 2013, New Orleans; click photo to enlarge-)

It’s interesting that after eighteen years George revisited this painting, as it’s rare for him to revisit any work.  This is especially ironic since it hung in his Carmel studio, where he has not painted in nearly two years.  Nevertheless, he dreamed of finishing it and, to my surprise, shipped the painting to Louisiana just after Christmas, even as we relocate to California for a year or more later this month.

George spent much of the past two weeks restoring Tee Teddie, altering its earlier colors and removing wording that referenced the old restaurant.  He also chose a weighty, ornate frame for the giant, little bear, which hangs this week on public view for the first time in sixteen years, and for the first time ever in New Orleans.

(Update, 5/16/13; George Rodrigue completed a silkscreen print based on this painting.  Won’t You Be My Teddy Bear? is a signed and numbered edition of 250; 40×30 inches; click photo to enlarge-)


*note, George asked that I destroy all previous photos of the painting, so that it begins anew as you see it here; thus I did not include any ‘before’ pictures-

-for information on this and other ‘dog in a bear suit’ paintings and silkscreens, contact Rodrigue Studio

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8 thoughts on “Tee Teddie (Won’t You Be My Teddy Bear?)

  1. I'm trying to deal with dimensions–first, second, and third. (Wanna go into the fourth? We could!) This can't be a Blue Dog in a bear suit because I think of the Blue Dog in two dimensions, and until I saw the bear, I paid little attention to those useless little appendages tucked away as back legs. But the bear, the bear! He's got plump back legs sticking out into the forefront; he's a three-dimensional guy. He can't do that to the Blue Dog. I think there's a law. Of physics, if nothing else.

  2. I was blesed to have lived in Lafayette at the grand opening of his restaurant in 1996 in which he gave a few of us a copy of the Blue Bear with TGeorge Cafe in the middle and he autographed them. I think the next day or two the restaurant burned

  3. Hi My name is Julie Stoute.. I am so excited!! i have been trying to find out information about the same exact Blue Bear My husband Wayne also was given one of these..Do you have any other information about the prints? I can't find them even on E-Bay!! you can find me on Facebook under Julie Stoute (Tammy St.Onge) or Email prettyone1432@yahoo.com please let me know if you know anything?

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