Dogs Playing Poker

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Poker Game, oil on canvas, 1894

Dogs Playing Poker, by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, refers collectively to an 1894 painting, a 1903 series of sixteen oil paintings commissioned by Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars, and a 1910 painting.[1][unreliable source?] All eighteen paintings in the overall 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 kitsch art in home decoration.

Depictions and reenactments of the series have appeared in many films, television shows, theater productions, and other popular culture art forms. 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, sold for $658,000 at a 2015 auction.[3]

Coolidge paintings[edit]

Pinched with Four Aces (1903)
A Friend in Need (1903)
Poker Sympathy (1903)
Sitting up with a Sick Friend (c. 1905)
A Waterloo, 1906

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

The titles in the Brown & Bigelow 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
  • Pinched with 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 (1903) – 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)[4]

These were followed in 1910 by a similar painting, Looks Like Four of a Kind. Other Coolidge paintings featuring anthropomorphized dogs include Kelly Pool, which shows dogs playing kelly pool.

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] In 2015, Poker Game sold for $658,000, currently the highest price paid for a Coolidge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dogs Playing Poker". Ooo Woo – Complete Dog Resource. 2008. Archived from the original on April 11, 2017. Retrieved September 1, 2006.
  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", The 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". CNN Money. February 16, 2005. Retrieved September 11, 2006.

Further reading[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]