Gambling and art might not seem like the most obvious bedfellows, but over the years there have been many notable artists that have used the gaming tables as the focus of their work.
Whilst it might not be the most technically advanced pieces of artwork, C.M. Coolidges playful depiction of Dogs Playing Poker has somehow managed to become one of the most recognisable pieces of gambling art.
From its inevitable reproduction in many homes and bars, its become part of pop art iconography. And with a $658,000 sale price
at Sothebys, it showed how even a cigar advertisement can become highly valuable artwork.
Of course, theres more to art and gambling than such chintzy treasures. Jan Steen
was one of the most celebrated painters of the Dutch Golden Age, and amongst his cherished portrayals of daily life in Holland is his lively Argument Over a Card Game painting that captures all the drama of a classic gambling game.
Cézanne also included gambling amongst his post-Impressionist works with his series of paintings called The Card Players that are imbued with his trademark weighty brushwork and psychological depth.
One of the works in this series by Cézanne was recently sold for over $250 million making it one of the most expensive works of art
. As the painting is considered to be a pivotal work that introduced a wave of modernist artworks, its quickly apparent why it commanded such a formidable price tag.
The Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch, might be famous for his series of paintings called The Scream, but his At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo artwork is suffused with plenty of rich colour and drama, and his Gamblers in Monte Carlo painting also carries an eerie sense of foreboding.
Whats interesting about these paintings is the way that they transform a mundane gambling game into something magical. Whilst in the 21st century we may be used to online blackjack games
being commonplace on mobile sites like LadyLucks, in the late 19th century these games would have carried a different sense of atmosphere that made them the inevitable target for the periods best painters.
Gambling games even appeared in works by artists like the French painter, Fernand Léger
, who painted the cubist The Cardplayers after recovering from the effects of a gas attack in WW1. Plus the American expressionist, LeRoy Neiman, was evidently fascinated by the casinos with his Vegas Blackjack and International Poker
being amongst his famously colourful works.
When he wasnt painting pictures of cats and young girls, the French artist, Balthus, managed to fit in some typically odd studies of card games. And with even David Hockney using some very modern techniques to document a casual game of cards
, it shows that even a humble game of blackjack can inspire some very important works.