Tree at Sunrise
An Imposing Diptych by George Rodrigue

Nov 5, 2023: Amongst his first paintings after moving in 2001 from Louisiana to California, Rodrigue’s Tree at Sunrise evokes strong personal symbolism through its subject matter, color, and scale. This surreal diptych reflects the dawn of a new day, and for Rodrigue, in his wife Wendy and the California sunshine, the dawn of a new life. The black trees of his past appear dead when faced with the artist’s shining future. The concept of hope, commonly painted by Rodrigue as a small, bright sky at the horizon, swirls instead into the forefront, overtaking Wendy’s mass of hair. Although Rodrigue painted his wife many times, this giant interpretation is the only depiction that includes her glasses, perhaps wanting to ensure that she, too, sees.

Rodrigue painted this imposing artwork for his home; however, some years later a visiting collector convinced him to sell the half with the tree. Although he intended to recreate the missing piece, Rodrigue’s illness distracted him, and it was never completed. After her husband’s death in 2013, Wendy approached the collector, reacquired the tree, and reunited the canvases. The full diptych appears on view here for the first time within a museum exhibition.

—text from the exhibition George Rodrigue: Painting for Myself on view through January 2, 2024 at the Museum of New Art in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, followed by the Bayou Teche Museum in Rodrigue’s hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana, coinciding with the artist’s 80th birthday, March 13, 2024.

This exhibition is made possible because of generous support from Avery Insurance and the Life & Legacy Foundation. Filmed by Douglas Magnus as part of a series of Video Narratives for the Life & Legacy Foundation and Art Tour.