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Author: Tracy Morton
Blog Editor
Tracy Morton

Dogs Playing Poker - Art for Poker’s Sake

Before you scroll past because ‘you don’t know anything about art’, first have a think about the paintings you cannot fail to recognise, like the Mona Lisa, or the artists whose names you already know, like Picasso.

Although Leonardo da Vinci did not paint poker scenes, his art is widely reproduced onto packs of playing cards and poker chips. His Mona Lisa has also been ‘added’ to many other artists ironic poker art pieces too.

Picasso’s art is something of an acquired taste, but he did paint at least one representation of poker, his 1913 ‘Card Players’, which is described by arty people as ”synthetic cubism exhibiting a personal representation of reality”.

Well, that is a little highbrow and random, even for us, but do read on to find out about some other classic (and somewhat more obvious) pieces of poker art.

Dogs Playing Poker

There is no doubt in our minds that you will have encountered at least one of these, either in your local pub or at a poker-obsessed friends house. Enter Cassius Marcus Coolidge and his series of oil paintings depicting anthropomorphic dogs.

Anthropomorphism is an art style which portrays animals doing human activities, in this case, dogs. Coolidge created a series of eighteen oil paintings, nine of which featured poker in some way, so it is not one painting titled ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ it is the whole series.

Coolidge was scorned for his art and it was not until after his death that it became popular if not almost cultish. The dogs-playing-poker-style of art has become one of the most-copied forms and you can now find virtually any animal imaginable, from chickens to longhorn cattle, depicted playing poker.

PS. Should you ever come across an original Coolidge, you will find that it is worth around £1 million these days.

Controversial Classics

First, a little bit of controversy, caused by Georges de La Tour and two of his paintings dating back to the 1600s. The first is titled ‘The Cardsharp with the Ace of Diamonds’ and the second, ‘The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs’.

At first glance, the two paintings appear almost identical, except for the suit of the cards portrayed. So much so, that for many years ‘experts’ believed that the second of the two paintings was a faked copy. Happily, this was not the case, but the names of the two pictures are still routinely confused.

Highly Prized

Next, we move on to some high-value art by Paul Cezanne, a series of five paintings collectively known as ‘The Card Players’ which feature Cezanne’s extensive observations of local people in his part of rural France.

The paintings themselves vary in size and the number of card players depicted, but the background appears to be very similar, perhaps that of a local café. All five of the paintings are considered ‘priceless’, but to give you an idea of their value, one of the series was purchased by the Qatar Royal Family in 2011 for a record $250 million.

Same Name, Different Style

Another artist, this time a Dutch one who depicted card players is Almanach, who is known only by this single name. His two most famous pieces ‘The Card Players II’ and ‘Cheerful Company at the Table (The Card Players I)’ are very similar, but careful observation reveals different details in each.

Both of these 17th Century oil paintings are resident in the National Gallery of Slovenia, where they are hung next to each other so that viewers can observe the minor differences between them. Their current value is listed as ‘unknown’ which no doubt puts them firmly in the unaffordable bracket.

Born in The USA

Most classic poker paintings have their origins in Europe, but the notable exceptions are the two creations of Detroit-born Albert Beck Wenzell. Although his art studies were based in Paris, his paintings are all-American and are aptly titled “A Deal – In Washington: One That Is Not Political” and “A Show Down in the 400: Blue-Bloods Playing for Blue Chips”.

The interesting thing about these two pieces of art is the fact that although they are in two entirely different settings and were painted many years apart, they feature the same number of characters, who are depicted in remarkably similar poses. US museums hold both paintings and you can safely add them to the priceless list.

For Pure Amusement

It may come as no surprise that you can buy packs of playing cards featuring Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker series of paintings, but if you fancy a set of cards with a more modern take on anthropomorphic dogs, then try these out ‘A Fetching Deck of Canine Creatives’ by contemporary artist Chet Phillips.

These cards are poker-sized and advertised as casino quality, with each card depicting a canine character like ‘Dog Marley’ and ‘Elvis Puppsley’ we are sure you are catching on to the theme.

If you should ever feel like playing poker with dogs, you can find them here.

We hope that you have enjoyed today’s little foray into the world of poker art. There are many more classic-style paintings to be viewed and an endless array of modern and pop art creations based entirely on the game of poker.

Frankly, some of the modern poker art is downright weird in our opinion and it is not something we have even tried to discuss in this blog, but if there are any poker-playing art buffs out there, we are sure you will find something you like and understand.

Meet The Author
Tracy Morton
Tracy Morton
Blog Editor

Tracy started writing for us in early 2017 and is a crucial player within our team. She’s the editor of our Blog and regularly writes other articles. Tracy’s online gambling insights are born out of years of real-world experience as a Croupier overseeing table games.

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