Art & Gambling: Famous casino-themed paintings
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Art & Gambling: Famous casino-themed paintings

Human passions and strong emotions have always been the main inspiration in artists' works. Gambling is part of the leisure culture and, therefore, rarely associated with true art. But such a simplistic view of things overlooks the creation of iconic literary, cinematic, and pictorial objects inspired by gambling culture. Casino art is still a solid artistic movement that brought famous paintings to encourage punters worldwide. So, let's take an exciting journey and enjoy gambling-themed paintings that still incite passion and thrill.

The Cardsharps – Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

The Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted the Cardshapers around 1594-1596, bringing his real popularity. The work is devoted to gambling in Italy. Caravaggio, without embellishment, showed the story of a naive young man who got involved with two cheaters. The dagger on the belt of one of them hints at the possible outcome of the scam.

A renegade because of his rebellion and a rebel because of his famous art, for which he lived, survived, and died, Caravaggio was overpowered by the epoch he led and imprinted into oblivion in the 17th century. Three centuries later, his works were waiting to be rediscovered, to show the world the virtuosity of this artist, and make him one of the most brilliant masters that painting has ever known.

The Cardsharps generated numerous paintings representing gambling on interconnected compositions by artists throughout Europe. Georges de La Tour's Cheat with the Ace of Clubs in the Kimbell is one of the most excellent gambling-themed artworks based on this picture.

Dogs Playing Poker – Cassius Marcellus Coolidge

American Cassius Coolidge became, to some extent, the successor of Cezanne's traditions, presenting his independent painting series about gamblers. It took the artist about 15 years to create the entire series. The first canvas called "Poker Game" appeared in 1894. The characters of the painter's works are dogs playing poker, personifying members of an elite club who are passionate about gambling.

Back in the day, even the elite gambled at low stakes since it meant more hands and thus more fun and excitement. Today, you can also play at casinos with 10 $ minimum deposit and enjoy various games. Just like “Dogs”, it is possible to gather a group of friends to compete together. At the same time, nothing stops you from admiring this influential piece of work.

At the end of the 19th century, this was a bold artistic move, which caused a lot of criticism from admirers of conservative art. Insults and curses flew at the author's address for such an accessible, rethought depiction of the mores of high society. Historians claim that the American artist was inspired by the works of Caravaggio and Cezanne, trying to convey the atmosphere of gambling in a modern poker club. His work influenced the popularisation of fine arts among ordinary people who were not interested in classical painting.

At the Roulette Table – Edvard Munch

Indeed, this is one of the most famous casino-themed art pieces. The leading expressionist devoted several pieces to gambling during his stay in the south of France. Interestingly, this period of his life is the most productive and the most painful for him. He was very gloomy and depressed. He had many personal and health problems. He portrayed all those emotions that haunted him on canvas.

Munch was also fascinated by the atmosphere of the casinos. Ultimately, this fascination led to the creation of this beautiful piece in 1892. Here, the artist captures the drama and conveys the nervous tension at the roulette table, where losing or winning can have fatal consequences.

According to Munch, this work was the fruit of his numerous creative experiments, as a result of which he concluded that the language of impressionism is not expressive enough and does not allow describing situations with deep emotional content and expression.

The Card Players – Paul Cézanne

His works were shown for the first time in 1863 at the first exhibition of the "Salon des Refusés", an independent salon formed by the Impressionists whose works were not accepted by the official Paris "Salon". In 1870, he moved for a short time with his then mistress to a small town near Marseille, but he returned to Paris the following year.

A series of Paul Cezanne, consisting of 5 works, united by one theme - playing card games, was created from 1890 to 1896. The casino series is considered the most expensive in his heritage. Here, the artist depicted the life and rest of the peasants, their simple way of life.

Therefore, in the works of Cezanne, it is not excitement that but a routine activity - it seems that the gamblers are wasting their time. There is nothing to do; why not spread to the cards? So, the painting about people playing cards exists in four more versions, which are in the collections of major museums in New York, Paris, London, and Philadelphia. Also, the most famous painting of all, it sold for as much as $250 million, the greatest amount ever paid for paintings representing gambling.


The theme of gambling has not been bypassed by modern artists either. In 2011, American Shelly Wilkerson created the Slot Machine Queen cartoon. It illustrates the evolution of casino entertainment: from cards to slots. The painting quickly became viral and is one of the most popular slot machine themed pictures. With that in mind, themed slots form the most popular category in online casinos.

Long story short, the statement that gambling and art go hand in hand is reckless but ignoring the fact that artists have used gambling in their work over the years is also wrong. Some of the famous gambling painting works even managed to gain fame recognition and bring their creators a well-deserved monetary reward.

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