Dogs playing poker

Only 11 of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge's Dogs Playing Poker paintings depict dogs playing poker, but they're still a lot of fun to look at.

Brown & Bigelow paid for 16 of the paintings, which were not considered "art" at the time because they advertised tobacco.

It is the oldest piece in the collection, dating back to 1984, and is the artist's most famous work. Brown and Bigelow's picture, A Friend in Need, is also known as "Dogs Playing Poker" because of its resemblance to the term.

When we talk about "Dogs Playing Poker" by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, we're referring to an 1894 oil painting, a 1903 set of 16 oil paintings ordered by Brown & Bigelow to promote cigars, and a 1910 painting. Even though there are 18 paintings in total in the series, the 11 paintings depicting dogs seated around a card table have become well-known in the United States as examples of kitsch art used in home décor.

Several films, television shows, theatrical performances, and other popular culture art forms have depicted the series. Dogs Playing Poker has been described as "indelibly burnt into the American collective-schlock brain through constant duplication on all manner of pop detritus" by critic Annette Ferrara.

Each of the 16 paintings in Brown & Bigelow's series will now be examined in greater detail.

A Bachelor’s Dog

Sitting on the couch with the mail and the newspaper while enjoying his favorite beverage and a cigar is a classic image of man's best friend.

A Bold Bluff

All the other dogs are watching St. Bernard with bated breath, anticipating the inevitable clash.

Breach of Promise Suit

A court case over one dog’s breach of promise to marry.

A Friend in Need

The painting depicts a bunch of dogs smoking and drinking while playing poker, with one dog trying to smuggle an ace beneath the table for a pal.

His Station and Four Aces

A train conductor passes by while well-dressed passengers are preoccupied playing a game of high-stakes poker.

The Dogs In Popular Culture

Even Coolidge couldn't have guessed how popular Dogs Playing Poker has grown over the previous century.

Popular in the United States, this painting has appeared in a slew of TV episodes and films.

When it comes to popular culture, this picture has appeared in a wide range of media over the years, from cartoons like Courage the Cowardly Dog to comedies like Cheers and Roseanne.

Snoop Dogg even used it in one of his songs.

These paintings have also been used as the basis for a wide range of items, including home decor, clothing, and more.

So, Who Was Cassius Marcellus Coolidge?

He was born in Antwerp, New York, in 1844 to Cassius and Marcellus Coolidge.

When he was younger, he spent his first two decades on a family farm before leaving to pursue a career as a sign painter.

He established a bank and a newspaper in the early 1870s but failed miserably in both endeavors.

After a few years in Antwerp, Coolidge made the move to Rochester, New York, where he began painting full time. Interestingly, he didn't have any official training at all.

By painting dogs in various human circumstances, he had the most success.

In the years leading up to his death in 1934, Coolidge maintained a busy art career, creating caricatures and other works of art. His relatives gave him the pseudonym "Cash" or "Kash" to sign autographs.

Scholars believe Coolidge was responsible for the invention of "comic foregrounds" or "carnivale cuts," those cardboard cutouts through which you can take amusing photos by sticking your head. He relied on it heavily as well.

The Dogs Playing Poker series

The origin of Coolidge's inspiration for his first picture of poker dogs is uncertain (Poker Game, 1894). It is suggested that the image's composition was inspired by the works of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Georges de La Tour, and Paul Cézanne—all of whom represent card game scenes with humans rather than dogs.

A Friend in Need by Coolidge has been compared to Laying Down the Law by Sir Edwin Landseer (1840). When it comes to card games, Coolidge's work is more lighthearted and funny than Landseer's; the dogs are gathered about pensively, acting like people (card players in his work and lawyers in Landseer's).

Coolidge wasn't commissioned by Brown & Bigelow until nearly a decade after the original poker dog painting. A football game, a road trip, a jester performing for a royal couple, and many other humanistic settings are shown in this 16-piece series. Cigar advertising posters, calendars, and prints were initially based on these images. More than a million calendars featuring Coolidge's artwork were sold around the country.

How were the paintings received? 

These paintings have a strange place in the art world because 16 of them were originally designed to be advertisements. We're intrigued by Coolidge's Dogs Playing Poker because it presents absurd concepts in the usually serious form of an oil painting, much like Andy Warhol would do over 50 years later. So much so that many of the photographs are based on the compositions of famous works by Cézanne, Caravaggio, and Georges de la Tour.

The paintings have been widely reproduced, referenced, and reworked as a parody and a tribute to Coolidge in popular culture across the United States. "The most famous American artist you've never heard of," says art critic Annette Ferrara of Coolidge, whose works have left an impression on even those who aren't particularly interested in art history.

Although Coolidge's Poker Game is now his most valuable painting, other works in his collection have also sold for a great price.... One of the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction was a pair of Waterloo and A Bold Bluff originals purchased for $590,400 in 2005.

The most popular of these paintings are of dogs cheating at poker

In A Friend in Need, two bulldogs go up against five massive hounds in the title role. Why should we blame them for sneaking useful cards under the table with their toes? It's no surprise that A Friend In Need is the most frequently referred to as "Dogs Playing Poker."

Dogs Playing Poker has never received much critical praise

Most people think of these paintings, which were commissioned for commercial purposes,as kitsch, or art that is essentially awful from the ground up. "For some, the paintings symbolise the essence of kitsch or lowbrow culture, a poor-taste caricature of "real" art," according to Martin Harris of Poker News.

THEY became a staple in working-class home décor ANYWAY

Kitsch was king in the 1970s, and Dogs Playing Poker were in high demand, so they were readily accessible in a variety of forms that were both stylish and affordable.

Even those who aren't interested in art history can't escape the indelible imprint of these iconic pieces, which are reproduced endlessly on everything from calendars to t-shirts to coffee mugs to the occasional advertisement, in the words of art historian Annette Ferrara.

They could be seen as a sort of self-portrait

Coolidge went by the nickname "Cash" and has been described as a hustler whose résumé showed quite a few career changes. Before he was painting for calendars, he worked painting street signs and houses and also tried his hand at being a druggist, an art teacher, and a cartoonist. He also started his own bank and his own newspaper. So perhaps the pooches who are always looking for the angles represented Coolidge’s own ambitions.

kITSCH OR NOT, Dogs Playing Poker paintings sell for big bucks

A 1998 auction saw a Coolidge original sell for $74,000 at Sotheby's. Then in 2005, A Bold Bluff and Waterloo: Two were put up for auction in Doyle New York’s Dogs in Art Auction. Before they hit the block, predictions were made that the pair of rare paintings would fetch $30,000 to $50,000. But an anonymous bidder ultimately paid a whopping $590,400 for them, setting a record for the sale of Coolidge works. 

Dogs Playing Poker has a small place of honor in Philadelphia, N.Y.

Coolidge was raised in Philadelphia, but the town was largely unaware of the fame of their former resident until 1991. That's when his then 80-year-old daughter Gertrude Marcella Coolidge took it upon herself to travel to Philadelphia and give a print from his collection to the town. Today, this piece is framed and hangs within the one-room museum at the back of the local library. Visitors can also ask to see a thin folder of related Coolidge materials. 

Coolidge Pups: The Stars of Pop Culture

Or should we say, “Pup Culture”? The Coolidge pups have become stars in 20th-century pop culture and, as we mentioned earlier, their allure has seemingly succeeded that of the artist himself. They have made appearances in television series, films, theatre, television ads, card games, music album covers, video games, as well as books.

Some examples of where we can find Coolidge’s pups include several episodes from the famous television series The Simpsons, namely, Tree House of Horror IV (Season 5), Two Dozen & One Greyhounds (Season 6), Day of Wine and D’Oh’ses (Season 11), and The Mansion Family (Season 11).

Other series and their episodes include Law & Order’s “American Jihad” (Episode 1, season 13), That 70s Show’s “Hunting”, Lilo & Stitch: The Series, “Finder” (2003), Family Guy’s “Saving Private Brian” and “Road to Rhode Island”, among many others. The pups have appeared in films like Hudson Hawk (1991), Looney Tunes: Back In Action (2003), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), Up (2009), and The Accountant (2016).


Several canines are depicted playing poker in a pale blue setting. As a metaphor for males in society, the author utilized seven dogs to represent the middle-class and working-class men.

The dogs are playing poker in this painting, which depicts a lot of leisure time. Because he painted men as dogs in his paintings, the author's work is sarcastic. The usage of dogs in the artwork is amusing since the writer depicted them performing human things and used it to draw the viewer's attention to the picture. The writer has also utilized humor to criticize and humiliate guys in society who engage in games and pranks.

Two of the seven canines are seen in the painting smoking pipes as well. A third canine can be seen chewing on a cigar stick.

Dogs smoking was an attempt to enhance the attraction of the images by Coolidge. It's possible that the author painted the smoking dogs for profit. This image can be used to promote a well-known company's brand of cigarettes or pipes because it is set in the modern era.

In order to keep the product in the minds of men for as long as possible, the idea of using dogs to smoke can be used. Clear cups with three bottles of a drink between the two dogs in the back are also seen drinking. After a hard day's work, these dogs can be used to illustrate the middle class and their willingness to reward themselves with a glass or two (Andrew, 2007).

At first glance, it appears like the dogs are playing poker while chatting. To the right, a joyful dog can be seen leaning against a wall, bringing cheer to the entire area. Dogs of diverse breeds are also worth noting. The dogs occupying the front rows are noticeably smaller than those occupying the rear.

Both dogs sitting in the front row appear to be chatting, with the grey dog glancing over his companion's shoulder. Dog breeds may have been used as a metaphor for society's inequalities, as we are not all the same in every way. During the height of America's racial segregation, this painting was painted to reflect that reality.

Consequently, the artist has shown that there is no longer any discrimination and that everyone has the same basic rights by employing various types of dogs. It's also clear that the grey dog is playing cards with the brown dog here. Since it is illegal to expose one's playing cards during the game, this suggests that there is a widespread conspiracy to cheat and steal from the other players. It's unclear whether or not the other dogs can see the grey dog as he goes about the business of showing his cards to the brown dog in the rear there.

Five of the seven canines had shackles around their necks, according to a closer inspection. Restraint is symbolized by this gesture. There are wider chains on the small dogs towards the front. This demonstrates the importance of restraint, particularly when money is involved.

Coolidge's perspective can be seen in the painting of dogs playing poker analyzed above. The painting's meaning shifts as time passes and technology improves. Many other artists were influenced by Coolidge's work. According to the study I conducted on my painting, it has been used as an advertisement for cigars. As the three brown bottles of beer reveal, it was also used to promote a beer brand (Schummer, 2008).

This demonstrates that a picture can spark a conversation between people who are trying to decipher its meaning.. Those who view the picture are compelled to decipher the meaning of the artist's work. Speculation is rife about the painting. Even though it's an advertising tool, my research suggests that the painting represents an elite group of well-to-do men who have come together to play a high-profile card game.

The painting is being used to promote two of society's most divisive products: cigars and beer. According to the time on the clock, it appears to be well past two a.m. as a result of society's moral decline.


It doesn't matter if you love or loathe these paintings, Dogs Playing Poker has become a part of American culture. Don't copy Coolidge's (clearly dishonest) dogs when you play your own poker games, though.

FAQ: Dogs playing poker

1. How Much Is Dogs Playing Poker Worth?

Coolidge paintings have never sold for large sums before to the last two decades. He never had much success with art collectors because his work is largely regarded as tacky.

2. Where Can You Buy Prints Of Dogs Playing Poker?

The original artwork of Dogs Playing Poker is out of most people's price range, but there are a number of reproductions available. Amazon and Etsy, for example, both sell high-quality printed versions.

3. What is the painting of the Dogs Playing Poker called?

An 1894 painting by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, a 1903 series of sixteen oil paintings commissioned by Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars, and a 1910 artwork are all referred to as "Dogs Playing Poker."

4. What does the picture of Dogs Playing Poker mean?

The dogs are playing poker in this painting, which depicts a lot of leisure time. Because he painted men as dogs in his paintings, the author's work is sarcastic. The usage of dogs in the artwork is amusing since the writer depicted them performing human things and used it to draw the viewer's attention to the picture.

5. Who invented Dogs Playing Poker?

Originally painted in 1894 by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, an American artist who laboured in a variety of odd jobs before turning to painting, Dogs Playing Poker has become an iconic piece of popular culture. There are actually eighteen paintings mentioned in the piece.