What You Didn't Know about the Iconic 'Dogs Playing Poker' Painting

  • 09/07/2020
poker-game-dogs.jpgYou know that you have seen the "dogs playing poker" painting at some point in your life. It is one of those iconic paintings that seems to show up just about everywhere. It turns out though that this is not just one painting but a series of paintings by the same artist on roughly the same topic.

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge is the artist behind these paints, and he did a total of 18 in the series. The "A Friend In Need" painting is the most famous in the series and is probably the one that first comes to mind when you think of dogs playing poker. All eighteen of the paintings feature dogs that appear to be acting like humans, but a total of seven of the eighteen do not have anything to do with poker at all.

The paintings by Coolidge were not considered to be real art by the critics of his time. The paintings made the public laugh quite a bit at what they depicted. They were considered very high comedy at the time. Many have mocked the paintings over the years, but few can say that they do not genuinely like them. You see them hanging up everywhere, and people clearly wouldn't be doing this if they didn't have some affection for these paints after all.

The paintings remain popular to this day and receive shout-outs from time to time on popular television programs such as Parks and Recreation, Cheers, and even The Simpsons. All of these shows expect that their audiences know the dog paintings that they are referring to because they are so famous.

Coolidge's first painting in this series known simply as Poker Game was first created in 1894. It remains so popular that the original copy of it sold for $658,000 at the Sotheby's auction house in New York in 2015.

The Man Behind The Paintings

An interesting tidbit about Cassius Marcellus Coolidge is that he had no formal art training. He always enjoyed working with surreal and humorous illustrations in his spare time, but he certainly did not have the kind of formal training that one might expect from someone who was set to make it so big in the world of art.

Coolidge tried to get into a number of different professional careers as an adult including banking, newspaper publishing, and sign painting. However, none of these struck him quite the right way. He knew in his heart of hearts that his true love was for art. He was going to need to do something in the art world if he was ever going to follow his dreams as they were.

The Origin Story

No one knows for sure where Coolidge got the idea for dogs playing poker. It is thought that he looked at some of the work of famous artists of the day depicting human beings playing poker and went off of that. He decided that he would substitute dogs in for the humans and go from there.

Coolidge seemed to know that the images that he painted would be humorous in nature. That was the whole point, but he felt that this was something that he could offer the world. He surely had no clue that his work would eventually become as famous as it has proven to be.

People continue to hang copies up of the dogs playing poker series in their man cave rooms to inspire their casino slots play at places like www.casino.com/ie/slots/. It seems that they have never lost their appeal to a mass audience. We may not all know what the origin story of these paintings is, but we do know that we are interested in having them in our homes.

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