Cassius Marcellus Coolidge

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C.M. Coolidge
Born Cassius Marcellus Coolidge
(1844-11-12)November 12, 1844
Antwerp, New York, United States
Died January 24, 1934(1934-01-24) (aged 89)
Nationality American
Known for Illustration, painting
Notable work(s) Dogs Playing Poker

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (September 18, 1844 – January 13, 1934), an American artist, mainly known for his paintings of dogs playing poker. Known as "Cash" or "Kash" in his family, he often signed his work in the 19th century with the latter spelling, sometimes spelling out his entire name, for comic effect, as "Kash Koolidge".

Early life[edit]

Coolidge was born in Antwerp, New York to abolitionist Quaker farmers, and was raised in Philadelphia, New York.[1]

He had little formal training as an artist.

Career[edit]

After leaving the family farm here in the early 1860s,[1] Coolidge had many careers. Between 1868 and 1872 Cassius Marcellus Coolidge worked as a druggist and sign painter, founded a bank and a newspaper, then moved from Antwerp, New York, to Rochester, where he started painting dogs in human situations.[2]

Editorial work[edit]

Coolidge began his art career in his twenties, one of his early jobs being the creation of cartoons for a local newspaper.

Comic Foregrounds[edit]

He is credited with creating "Comic Foregrounds," novelty photographs which combined a portrait of the sitter with a caricatured body, produced by the sitter holding between two sticks a canvas on which Coolidge drew or painted the caricature, the final product being similar to the photographs produced at midways and carnivals when sitters place their heads into openings in life-size caricatures.[3]

Calendar paintings[edit]

His Station and Four Aces by C. M. Coolidge.

According to the advertising firm Brown & Bigelow, then primarily a producer of advertising calendars, Coolidge began his relationship with the firm in 1903. From the mid-1900s to the mid-1910s, Coolidge created sixteen oil paintings for them, all of which featured anthropomorphic dogs, including nine scenes of dogs playing poker,[4] a meme Coolidge is credited with inventing.

The original series of 16 paintings, and their themes, are:

  • A Bachelor's Dog – reading the mail
  • A Bold Bluff – poker
  • Breach of Promise Suit – testifying in court
  • A Friend in Need – poker, cheating
  • His Station and Four Aces – poker
  • New Year's Eve in Dogville – ballroom dancing
  • One to Tie Two to Win – baseball
  • Pinched with Four Aces – poker, illegal gambling
  • Poker Sympathy – poker
  • Post Mortem – poker, camaraderie
  • The Reunion – smoking and drinking, camaraderie
  • Riding the Goat – Masonic initiation
  • Sitting up with a Sick Friend – poker, gender relations
  • Stranger in Camp – poker, camping
  • Ten Miles to a Garage – travel, car trouble, teamwork
  • Waterloo – poker

Other paintings[edit]

Additional paintings in a similar vein include:

  • Kelly Pool (ca. 1909) – pool

Named for the then-common pool-game Kelly pool, Coolidge's painting of dogs playing pool may be considered a progenitor of another memetic pop-culture art genre, that of "dogs playing pool," but it is unlikely that other 20th-century artists in the genre were aware of this little-known painting.

Auction records[edit]

On February 15, 2005, two Coolidge paintings, A Bold Bluff and Waterloo, which may have been the originals of the paintings used by Brown & Bigelow, went on the auction block at Doyle New York. Expected to fetch between $30,000 and $50,000, the pair sold for $590,400. The result surpassed the previous auction record of $74,000 for Coolidge.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Barry, Dan (June 14, 2002). "Artist's Fame Is Fleeting, But Dog Poker Is Forever". The New York Times. Retrieved Dec 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ Santa Cruz Public library, You Know?" (accessed Dec. 6 2012) (quoted at blog dogs)
  3. ^ McManus, James. "Play It Close to the Muzzle and Paws on the Table," New York Times (December 3, 2005).
  4. ^ "Dogs Playing Poker". Ooo Woo – Complete Dog Resource. 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2006. 
  5. ^ "'Dogs Playing Poker' sell for $590K". Money.com (CNN). February 16, 2005. Retrieved September 11, 2006. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]