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Sons of George Rodrigue sue his widow over control of Blue Dog artist's empire

Famed artist's two sons allege Wendy Magnus and her husband have mismanaged and shut them out of their father's business empire
Credit: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Archive
Wendy and George Rodrigue at the "Weddings, Commitment and State of Matrimony," exhibit at the Robert Bruno Gallery. (Photo by Steven Forster, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Archive)

The sons of famed Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue have filed suit against their stepmother and her husband over control of the late artist’s business empire.

On Wednesday, Jacques and Andre Rodrigue, whose father died in December 2013, filed suit against his widow Wendy and her husband Douglas Magnus. 

Wendy Rodrigue married Magnus, a jewelry designer, artist and friend of George Rodrigue’s, in the year after his death. The couple lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In their suit, the sons are also suing the foundation the Magnuses formed since George Rodrigue’s death, the George Rodrigue Life and Legacy Foundation.

The suit alleges various acts by Rodrigue’s widow and her husband, which they say “present imminent danger of irreparable damage to George Rodrigue’s legacy and the survival of the various Rodrigue’s businesses.”

George Rodrigue married Wendy Magnus in 1997, three years after he divorced his first wife, the mother of Jacques and Andres Rodrigue. In the years since, Wendy became an integral part of Rodrigue’s creative and business empire. Born in New Iberia, Rodrigue's paintings, including his Cajun landscapes, portraits and most notably his Blue Dog series, earned him international acclaim and a multi-million dollar business. 

Rodrigue's sons and widow have maintained high profiles in the year since his death, particularly with arts education and outreach efforts.

The lawsuit filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court accuses Wendy Magnus and her husband of mismanaging the Rodrigue businesses and misappropriating and misusing property of the Rodrigue family and the trust which Rodrigue set up for his sons and widow.

Credit: Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
George Rodrigue looks over the half-spent tubes of acrylic paints while working in his studio, behind his home in the Marigny Monday, Feb. 18, 2008. (Photo by Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Archives)

The suit claims George Rodrigue’s son Jacques was “groomed…from a very young age to one day help run, and eventually take over, the management” of his father’s art catalog and business. “They were best friends until the day George died,” the suit states.

It claims that Jacques Rodrigue took over management of his father’s business empire in the years following his death and that Wendy agreed to step aside from daily operations at that time. But the sons say that Magnus emerged to take control of the business in 2016 and has since shut them out and mismanaged the business.

“Mrs. Magnus refuses to allow Jacques and Andre to manage or have any substantive input in the operations of the business, as is their right per the operating agreements,” the suit states. It adds that she refuses to answer their emails or requests for information.

The sons also balk at what they call Magnus' plans to close Rodrigue’s Royal Street gallery in the French Quarter, which they say goes against their father’s wishes.

Rodrigue’s sons accuse their stepmother of ignoring the foundation that their father established, the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, in favor of her own foundation, the George Rodrigue Life and Legacy Foundation. The suit says that Magnus and her husband have used George Rodrigue’s name and intellectual property in their work with their foundation without the son’s consent. It seeks to strip Rodrigue’s name from that foundation.

The suit seeks damages and a temporary restraining order against Magnus and her husband.

The brothers say they have tried to “amicably” resolve their differences with their stepmother to no avail.

“My brother and I are sad that we have been forced to take legal action,” said Jacques Rodrigue in a statement. “But this is our birthright, our heritage. We know our father would support us in this endeavor.”

Wendy Magnus released a statement Wednesday night saying she's working towards a solution to honor George Rodrigue's wishes.

“I have made every effort to resolve family differences related to my late husband’s estate, and I will continue to work toward a resolution that honors his wishes. My mission is and has always been to share the life and art of George Rodrigue.”