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Dogs Playing Poker - Simply Kitsch?

You've all seen the paintings. In fact, many of you probably have copies of them hanging up somewhere; and if you do, they're most likely in your established 'poker room'. Several versions are out there and the popularity of the subject has translated into countless reproductions.

Dogs Playing Poker - Simply Kitsch?

Originally, Dogs Playing Poker started as a series of oil paintings by C. M. Coolidge. Coolidge's first customers were cigar companies that printed copies of the paintings for giveaways. Then, in 1903, an advertising firm paid Coolidge to make a series of 16 paintings. He was charged with showing dogs behave like humans. Of these 16, nine have the dogs positioned around a card table, playing poker and smoking cigars. Each painting illustrates a different part of what very well could be the same poker game.

In 'A Bold Bluff' for example, we can see a St. Bernard's hand but not those of the other dogs. Then, in 'Waterloo', the Saint Bernard takes the pot! Many of you may be familiar as well with 'Looks Like Four of a Kind', one of the most popular dog-themed productions. This well-known painting, however, was only a follow-up to the original series.

The appeal of the series has resulted in it becoming a virtual mainstay of US pop culture. If any of have you seen Larry Shue's play The Foreigner, you'll notice that a character staying in a lodge has the line that she does not want to be in her room because "the damned painting [in there] is Dogs Playing Poker." The frequency of references to the painting only further illustrates its widespread popularity.

Just to give you another example, for those of you who don't remember or haven't seen the film, 'Dogs Playing Poker' makes an appearance in The Thomas Crown Affair as well. And, lest we think it's nothing but kitsch, on February 16, 2005, two of the paintings sold for $590,400. We'd like to see a kitsch shop with that type of pricing!

Reproductions, however, haven't been limited to prints of various sizes and formats. A PC video game based on the paintings has been released and a movie in 2000 starring Tim Curry and Olivia William was even entitled 'Four Dogs Playing Poker.' Some online poker rooms are even available where you can actually play against the four dogs with animations and everything. If one thing's for sure, this series of paintings has a lot more history and appeal behind it than just a few kitsch-shop reproductions!

• Page created on May 19th, 2015 •

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