Footnote (He Stopped Loving Her Today)

In George Rodrigue’s latest painting, He Stopped Loving Her Today, Jolie Blonde’s hat sits alongside an above-ground tomb, the same type of vault his father installed in New Iberia, Louisiana as part of the family business.

“I wanted to paint a tribute to George Jones (1931-2013),” explains Rodrigue.  “I’ve loved this song for thirty years, and even though I’ve painted the Blue Dog before on tombs, this one is particularly special, because I reference the woman he loves.  Her hat is a remembrance alongside his grave.”

The painting, at 5×4 feet, is typical of Rodrigue’s long-established style.  An oak tree, sliced by the top of the canvas, frames a sky of interesting shapes.  The Blue Dog, like Rodrigue’s Cajun figures, appears cut out and pasted onto the Louisiana landscape, so that every element is deliberate, locked in and unable to move. 
-click photos throughout to enlarge-

Behind the tree, a river, which could also be a road, leads to a small, Heaven-like horizon, the hope of a displaced people in Rodrigue’s Cajun paintings, and perhaps another kind of hope in this contemporary expression. 
He kept her picture on his wall
Went half crazy now and then
He still loved her through it all
Hoping she’d come back again
(words and music by Bobby Braddock)
Obsessed with this idea since Jones’s death, George Rodrigue painted on this canvas for more than a week, never leaving the house and hardly sleeping.  Realizing he hadn’t come to bed, I found him, at daybreak on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, hanging the wet painting in our living room.

“Good idea,” I said, as he removed the large-scale copy of We Will Rise Again, after seven years on our wall.  “That Katrina piece is too sad.”

“Yeah,” he noted. “This tomb with the cross on it is much better.”

I’ve modeled as Jolie Blonde for twenty years on George’s canvas, suggesting in this painting several personal footnotes.

For example, recently, after watching the movie Hemingway & Gellhorn, I recalled a question that I first asked myself when I started this blog nearly four years and 1,000 pages ago:

Does it lessen my accomplishment because I write about my husband?
I don’t have the confidence of a Martha Gellhorn who, putting aside the fact that she immersed herself bravely amidst the victims of war while I live safely within an artist’s studio, refused to write or speak of husband Ernest Hemingway, with the exception of one famous query,

“Why should I be a footnote to someone else’s life?”

George and I discussed or, rather, he endured my explanation, as much to myself as to him, as to why I live happily as a footnote.

“Unlike Gellhorn,” I explained, “I signed up for this.”

As we stared at his new painting, now hanging permanently in our living space, he countered,

“The difference with us, Wendy, is that we put our feelings for each other above everything else, even our personal ambitions.”

Heavenly dayDid I hear him correctly?

“Say that again…” 

…whispered the artist’s wife, as he returned to his computer, designing the promotional poster for my book.
I don’t want to be a Leonardo, I thought, smiling at the irony of my life’s situation as I recall the line that’s haunted me since college.  I want to be myself.*
*Lucy Honeychurch, speaking to her fiancé, Cecil Vyse, in the 1986 movie from E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel, A Room With a View

-the original painting, He Stopped Loving Her Today, remains within George Rodrigue’s personal collection; however, he is working on a silkscreen edition, as well as a small number of large-scale chrome pieces based on this work; for details, contact Rodrigue Studio

-photo updated 7/13/13 with silkscreen print-

-for a related story, see the post “Dance with Me, George“-

-for more art and discussion, please join me on facebook

8 thoughts on “Footnote (He Stopped Loving Her Today)

  1. Oh Wendy, This was so touching, I have tears. I love his quote about you two, so sweet. I also love for an artist to share the story of their painting. Wonderful!

    You'll never be a footnote. So many of us have come to love your words as much as George's paintings. I know I find myself just as interested in your stories as I do his. Our love for his paintings are something we all have in common, but his stories and your stories have separated you both from the paintings. You two are such interesting people with such love for each other and South Louisiana, I find myself wanting more of your lives and love story. Your writing is the reason for that.

    Very well written.

  2. Wendy, thanks for sharing your thoughts and the story behind the paintings. I am the proud owner of one of your husbands paintings and admire all of his work. This last one, He Stopped Loving Her Today, shows that his work comes from heartfelt passion, not fads or what everyone else is doing. I think you two make a perfect team. He paints, you tell the stories of the paintings in a way that just hooks the reader in. Please don't ever stop you two! You always leave me wanting more!

  3. Thank you! I started writing about George's paintings as a way of satisfying my own curiosity, combined with the importance of a written record of George's descriptions of his art. My hope, from the beginning, was that others would share this interest, which does seem to be the case, even as the blog moves at times through tangents. I appreciate your reading and commenting, and am so glad that you enjoy your Rodrigue painting!

  4. Oh I just love this! Sigh. And Gellhorn? Lordy, that poor woman. I pity anyone tangled with the likes of Hemingway, except maybe that Pauline. George was right.

  5. Dear Wendy,

    This was a wonderful read. George, great comment. Wow, I need the tissue box.
    Wendy, you and George are equally admired and respected for your talents and love for each other. You are an incredible writer. I can't wait to read your book.

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