SISSYDUDE LOVES: NEW ORLEANS’ BEAUTIES by GEORGE DUREAU
APERTURE: George Dureau (born in New Orleans, 1930; died in New Orleans, 2014) was a painter, sculptor, and photographer known for his focus on the male nude. His paintings command regional and national recognition, and draw on classical and baroque traditions. His photographs of nudes, street people, and people who are maimed and deformed (often figures also incorporated within his paintings and sculptures), have garnered international acclaim. Often compared to Robert Mapplethorpe’s work, Dureau’s black male nudes predate Mapplethorpe’s Black Book pictures by several years. Also classically formal, they distinguish themselves from Mapplethorpe’s work by the nature of the connection between photographer and subject.
Dureau’s career has been the subject of retrospectives at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (2006 and 2011) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (2009). The first exhibition of his photographs in New York (at Higher Pictures) was in 2012. Immersed in New Orleans’s unique art and culture throughout his life, Dureau became a widely known character of the French Quarter.
George Dureau, interviewed by author Jack Fritscher for the book “Mapplethorpe: Assault With a Deadly Camera,” at his home in New Orleans, April 8, 1991.
Dureau (PHOTO ABOVE) was born to Clara Rosella Legett Dureau and George Valentine Dureau in the Irish Channel, New Orleans, Louisiana. He was raised in Mid-City. He graduated with a fine arts degree from LSU in 1952, after which he began architectural studies at Tulane University. He briefly served in the U.S. Army. Before being able to survive as an artist, he worked for Maison Blanche, a New Orleans department store, as a display designer. For the vast majority of his life, he lived in the French Quarter, where he was well known for his eccentricity and hospitality. His friend and student, Robert Mapplethorpe restaged many of his earlier black and white photographs. Dureau died of Alzheimer’s disease.