Man steals Blue Dog paintings from French Quarter gallery

Man steals Blue Dog paintings from French Quarter gallery

Published: Monday, June 21, 2010, 5:35 PM Updated: Monday, June 21, 2010, 10:27 PM

Allison Good, The Times Picayune

An unidentified man stole about $40,000 in Blue Dog paintings by world-famous artist George Rodrigue last week when he entered the artist’s gallery at 730 Royal Street, walked to the rear with a shopping bag and grabbed two canvases off the wall.

Mary Jackson / The Times-Picayune archiveGeorge Rodrigue paints a blue dog at a 2005 charity fundraiser.
The theft occurred Friday about 5 p.m. while employees were in the store helping other customers. The gallery’s six security cameras caught the man entering and leaving the store in a heist that took just two-and-a-half minutes.

Rodrigue said it was clear the thief scouted out the gallery before committing his crime because he stole the paintings in full view of the cameras and brought along the correct size bag. Rodrigue said he was “shocked” when he got the call from gallery salesman Lawrence Pugh telling him what happened.

“Lawrence called me and I didn’t realize it was those three small paintings and my reaction was, how can a guy walk out with something framed like that,” he said. “But those were smaller, the only ones he could possibly take without being seen.”

The stolen paintings were part of a set of three Blue Dog portraits, titled “Three Coins in the Fountain. ” The 12-by-12-inch canvases are identical except for the background colors, in red, yellow and purple. Only the canvas with the yellow background remains. Rodrigue said that’s probably because the yellow canvas was thicker than the other two.

Jacques Rodrigue, the artist’s son and attorney for the gallery, said that while the two paintings retailed at $40,000 total, his father’s losses are the value of the entire series, which cost $55,000. Rodrigue will not sell the remaining picture without the rest of the set.

Police arrived at the scene about thirty minutes after the theft was discovered and are currently investigating the incident. According to Jacques Rodrigue, the gallery is supposed to receive a report from police within a few days, but have been told there are no leads.

In the meantime, the gallery’s is concerned the thief will try to sell the paintings for less than they are worth.

“We’ve had issues before in the past with prints being stolen and sold on eBay and they always put a very low value on the print,” said the artist, who is not optimistic that the man will be caught. “People never steal this kind of thing just to hang on their wall.”

As for the paintings themselves, George Rodrigue said “these things usually turn up in ten to twenty years.”

He plans to install two new security cameras to protect against future crimes, and said the gallery had no security cameras until it moved to its current location about a month ago from its old store at 721 Royal Street.

Pugh and his colleagues called the incident “unusual” among the local gallery community.

“I can’t point to another incident like this,” he said. “Now it’s ‘One Coin in the Fountain’ instead of three.”

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