Dogs Playing Poker

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His Station and Four Aces by C. M. Coolidge, 1903.

Dogs Playing Poker refers collectively to an 1894 painting, a series of sixteen oil paintings, and a 1910 painting by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. Brown & Bigelow commissioned the 16 painting series in 1903 to advertise cigars.[1] All eighteen paintings in the series feature anthropomorphized dogs, but the eleven in which dogs are seated around a card table have become well known in the United States as examples of mainly working-class taste in home decoration.

Critic Annette Ferrara has described Dogs Playing Poker as "indelibly burned into ... the American collective-schlock subconscious ... through incessant reproduction on all manner of pop ephemera."[2]

The first painting, Coolidge's 1894 Poker Game, realized $658,000 at a Sotheby's New York sale on 18 November 2015.[3]

Coolidge paintings[edit]

Poker Game, oil on canvas, 1894

The title of Coolidge's 1894 painting is Poker Game.

The titles in the Brown & Bigelow Dogs Playing Poker series are:

  • A Bachelor's Dog – reading the mail
  • A Bold Bluff - poker (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Stands Pat on Nothing)[4]
  • Breach of Promise Suit – testifying in court
  • A Friend in Need (1903) – poker, cheating
  • His Station and Four Aces (1903) – 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 (1905) – poker, gender relations
  • Stranger in Camp – poker, camping
  • Ten Miles to a Garage – travel, car trouble, teamwork
  • A Waterloo (1906) – poker (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Wins on a Bluff) (1906)[4]

These were followed in 1910 by a similar painting, Looks Like Four of a Kind.

Some of the compositions in the series are modeled on paintings of human card-players by such artists as Caravaggio, Georges de La Tour, and Paul Cézanne.[4]

On February 15, 2005, the originals of A Bold Bluff and Waterloo were auctioned as a pair to an undisclosed buyer for US $590,400.[5] The previous top price for a Coolidge was $74,000.[6] The 2015 sale price of Coolidge's 1894 Poker Game, $658,000, is now the highest price paid for a Coolidge.

In popular culture[edit]

A Waterloo, 1906
  • In the TV sitcom Cheers, Sam Malone loves the paintings (in particular one of Dogs Playing Blackjack) while his more sophisticated lover, Diane Chambers, hates them. Sam says that he sees something new everytime he looks at it - such as one of the dogs cheating.
  • The set for the TV show Roseanne had a reproduction of one of the paintings in the family's living room.
  • The cover of the 1981 album, Moving Pictures, by Rush, features several pictures being moved, one of which is DPP.
  • The animated television series The Simpsons has made several references to the paintings, most notoriously in "Treehouse of Horror IV", when Homer is driven to insanity by his mix of intense fear and intense amusement in response to one of the paintings. [7]
  • The short story "A Gamble with Wildthyme" by Steve Lyons (from the book Iris Wildthyme and the Celestial Omnibus) concerns the cheating taking place in the Coolidge painting A Friend in Need
  • Dogs Playing Poker TV ads were aired during ESPN Sunday Night Football during the 1998 and 1999 National Football League seasons. The 1998 ads showed animatronics dogs (the Bulldog's voiceover was by Gilbert Gottfried), while the 1999 commercials used human actors, including Herman Moore, Terrell Davis, Joe Theismann, and Jason Sehorn.
  • The videogame Psychonauts by Tim Schafer has an entire level, named "Black Velvetopia", dedicated to kitsch art. After completing the level, the artist, Edgar Teglee, begins painting a DPP painting, remarking that although it is impossible for dogs to play cards without thumbs, still they go on, a metaphor for life. Coincidentally, the level right before "Black Velvetopia" is called "Waterloo World".
  • In the 1993 computer game Day of the Tentacle, a stylized DPP painting decorates the bedroom of one of the characters.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Saving Private Brian", Mayor West is discovered playing poker with dogs in the school's basement. Also in the Family Guy episode "Road to Rhode Island", Stewie comments on Dogs Playing Poker paintings hanging on the wall at Brian's mother's house. He suggests that since Jesus is alone in one of the other paintings, the dogs should invite him to their card game.
  • In the 2009 Disney Pixar animated film Up, several of the dog characters are briefly seen playing poker, using a pile of Milk-Bones as poker chips.
  • In Larry Shue's play The Foreigner, a character complains that she does not want to be in her motel room because there is a "Damn picture on the wall of some dogs playin' poker."
Sitting up with a Sick Friend (circa 1905)
  • In the television show NewsRadio's spoof of the movie Titanic, characters fleeing the sinking ship/radio broadcasting studio dump famous artworks, but hold on to one of the Dogs Playing Poker paintings, which character Jimmy James claims is a "great picture".
  • In the 1999 movie remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, the character Banning finds the stolen Monet in Crown's house and takes it back to the police station. However, on expert examination it turns out to be a fake, painted on top of a Dogs Playing Poker canvas.
  • In an episode of the TV series That '70s Show ("Hunting"), DPP is parodied by the characters taking the places of the dogs.
  • In an episode of Animaniacs, a young Pablo Picasso's artistic frustration is demonstrated by his producing a DPP painting.
  • In the TV show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody London gets inspired to buy a copy of the painting for her dogs birthday party.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic mentions Dogs Playing Poker in his song "Velvet Elvis".
  • In an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, Courage goes into a DPP painting and picks up an untouched hand. He then laughs and puts it down, which shocks the other dogs upon seeing that the hand is a royal flush. Courage is then kicked out of the painting by one of the other dogs.
  • In one notable strip of The Far Side, a homeless artist, named Gus Nickerson in the caption, is depicted lying on the street, surrounded by unsold paintings similar to DPP but depicting other animals such as giraffes, bugs, chickens and gators. The caption tells of how he was unemployed until someone said, "Hey, have you ever tried dogs playing poker"?
  • In the 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days, Monique has a painting of Dogs Playing Poker in her sketchbook.
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a number of dog characters in the Looney Tunes series are seen playing poker at Yosemite Sam's casino.
  • In the TV series Boy Meets World, Eric is cleaning out the garage when he finds one of the Dogs Playing Poker paintings. He holds it up to show his parents.
  • In the popular indie Game Undertale, the dogs that make up the royal canine unit are seen playing poker in a restaurant.

See also[edit]

A Friend in Need (1903)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Dogs Playing Poker". Ooo Woo – Complete Dog Resource. 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2006. [unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Ferrara, Annette (April 2008). "Lucky Dog!". Ten by Ten Magazine. Chicago: Tenfold Media. Archived from the original on March 27, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2006. 
  3. ^ "That Dogs Playing Poker Painting Just Sold for Over $650,000". GQ. 
  4. ^ a b c McManus, James. "Play It Close to the Muzzle and Paws on the Table," New York Times (December 3, 2005).
  5. ^ "A New York auction offers artistic treats for dog lovers," San Jose Mercury News (Feb 11, 2005).
  6. ^ "'Dogs Playing Poker' sell for $590K". Money.com. CNN. February 16, 2005. Retrieved September 11, 2006. 
  7. ^ DogsPlayingPoker.org: The Simpsons. Accessed on 2009-04-30

References[edit]

  • Harris, Maria Ochoa. "It's A Dog's World, According to Coolidge," A Friendly Game of Poker (Chicago Review Press, 2003).

External links[edit]