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Eight Famous Artworks Inspired by Gambling

What is the importance of gambling in society? Gambling has influenced the entertainment industry’s development in the past century. While many put movies first and are right to do so, gambling has become the fastest-growing entertainment sector, especially after World War II. It introduced us to the shine of Las Vegas, which has evolved from a simple gambling capital to the world's entertainment capital.

Due to the impact gambling has had on society, it has been a mainstay of pop culture. Gambling art was rare but unique and has been painted since the Renaissance. This article will show you the top gambler art pieces that have marked the pastime’s significance in entertainment.

Dogs Playing Poker

Any painting depicting dogs doing something is worth a check. That’s probably what Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, an American artist, thought when he released a whole series of paintings named Dogs Playing Poker. While one of them is the most popular you’ll find online, the series has 18 gambling paintings with dogs sitting at a table playing poker.

It’s hilarious and shows how big of a pastime poker was in the artists’ time in the early 20th century.

Cezanne’s Card Players

Paul Cezanne is probably the most influential post-impressionist artist, thanks to works of art like Card Players. Cezanne painted a series of gambler art paintings showing regular people playing card games. It perfectly captured life in Paris in the late 19th century. A bit of day drinking in bars and socializing with others by playing card games.

Argument Over a Card Game by Jan Steen

Painted in 1665 by Dutch artist Jan Steen, it depicts the chaos often found at card game tables. No one likes to lose, which often leads to unpleasant situations that can grow into serious scuffles. The equipment is thrown on the ground, and people hold back the loser while the winner mocks him with a lollipop. It’s a classic.

The Cardsharps

Nowadays, there are tons of new games like fish table games, online poker, slots, and live game shows. But, in the past, card games (not necessarily poker) were the boss. This is why gambling art usually depicts card games, and one of the bests among them is Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps.

Created in the last decade of the 1500s, art historians call it the masterpiece of gambling art. It shows the realism and excellence of the famous painter and his well-known chiaroscuro technique, which gives it a real flair and enhances the drama. It’s a painting with plenty of emotions, perfectly depicting how a card game in the 16th century would go.

At the Roulette Table by Edvard Munch

Munch is the creator of one of the most well-known works of art – The Scream. The troubled Norwegian painter depicted another pioneering masterpiece in At The Roulette Table, showcasing his talent via fast brush strokes and original expressionism. While we can’t see which of the players has a poker face, it shows the art of gambling and the wooing sensation in its purest form.

Leger’s Soldiers Playing Cards

While it’s not as popular as the other gambler art on this list, Fernand Leger’s cubist Soldiers Playing Cards is a masterpiece. The artist was obviously under the heavy impression of Braque and later Picasso, creating an art piece requiring you to use your head to find the little details.

Gericault’s Woman with a Gambling Mania

Everyone had a gambling mania in the late 19th century. Famed French painter Theodore Gericault of The Raft of the Medusa fame was depressed about the controversy surrounding his masterpiece, so he asked for help from psychiatrists. One of them suggested painting a series of portraits of ten mentally-ill people, including one of an older lady suffering from a gambling mania.

The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs by George de la Tour

Cheating is a common gambling theme and happens between the casino and players. George de la Tour showed such a moment where a gambler can be seen holding an ace of clubs behind his back. That might not be allowed in Vegas, but at the time, cheaters were common, and de la Tour confirms it.

Final Thoughts
Is gambling an art? Well, it’s entertainment and a big part of our society’s habits and culture. Gambling art is rare but unique, and thanks to the popular masterpieces we discussed above, it’s clear that it has a bigger influence on society than we knew.
For more gambling news and reviews, visit SBS.

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