Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dogs Playing Poker by C.M. Coolidge

Dogs Playing Poker-1903
Dogs Playing Poker is a painting from the collection of C.M. Coolidge that includes sixteen oil productions. The work was commissioned as part of a cigar advertising campaign for Brown & Bigelow and represents five dogs playing poker and taking on human behavior and actions. Its appeal was based in the uniqueness of its representation of activities that were both manly and social.  

The painter C.M. Coolidge was a brainchild for his time. He started the first bank at 27 years old and engaged in rigorous study before putting his hand to the canvas. His wealth allowed him to spend considerable time working on this as well as other artistic endeavors. In 1903, he was contracted by C.M. Coolidge to produce a number of paintings of dogs. He was paid the small fortune of $10,000 for the work on dogs.

Over a hundred years later, the painting still holds its value and sold at a New York auction house for $590,000 in 2005 (CNN, 2005). This is an exceptional value considering that many of the appraisers believed that the paintings would sell between 30K and 50K. They failed to understand the cultural iconic nature of the work.

Coolidge had an interesting but not well-known history. He was born to two wealthy farmers in upper state New York in 1844. He spent a great portion of his time working on the farm for his parents and bought a couple of businesses in his hometown of Antwerp. He traveled Europe but never really received any formal painting education. You may learn more about his biography HERE.

If you scroll the Internet looking for information you come across an interesting concept that Coolidge put within the paintings clues to the Papcy. No idea if these claims are true or more of a fantasy of some writers. However, the argument is that like Leonardo Di Vinci, Coolidge liked to play little games with his work that included putting interesting puzzles of mystery in his works.  A few have argued that the painting is a subtle mock of arrogance mixed with wealth. No one knows for sure.

What we do know is that the dog picture seems to have a particular fondness among men and its reproductions are seen hanging in mechanic shops, clubs, barbershops and many more places. You will find that the dogs are masculine and similar like you might find on a farm. Perhaps this is the way Coolidge defines his masculinity.  In either case, the painting is fondly remembered and part of pop culture..

Dogs Playing Poker sell for 590K. (2005). CNN Money. Retrieved May 26th, 2013 from http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/16/news/newsmakers/poker_dogs/ 

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