Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Puttin' on the Dog: Cassius Marcellus Coolidge and Arthur Sarnoff

Here are two illustrators who excelled at what is known as "dressed animal" art. They both specialized in dogs who are participating in human activites, primarily pool, cards, and, in the case of Sarnoff, golf. I've shown them together due to their strong similarities. (Sarnoff was directly inspired by Coolidge.) Remarkable for their detail and humor, prints by both artists remain extremely popular even today. The top two paintings are by Coolidge; the bottom is by Sarnoff. Here's a little more about each artist.

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1844-1934) was an American artist known primarily for his Dogs Playing Poker paintings and inventing the concept of life-size cutouts into which one's head is placed to create funny character photographs. While he had no formal training as an artist, his natural talent for drawing led him to create cartoons for his local newspaper during his twenties. In 1900, Coolidge contracted with the advertising firm of Brown & Bigelow of St. Paul, Minnesota to create sixteen oil paintings of dogs in various human poses, nine of which depict dogs playing poker. They quickly became a national success and finally earned him, at late mid-life, fame and fortune.
His anthropomorphised dog paintings have inspired not only American illustrator Arthur Sarnoff, who became famous for his Dogs Playing Pool series of paintings, but also hundreds of other imitators.
In 2005, two of his paintings, "A Bold Bluff" and "Waterloo", sold at auction for $590,400, a record for Coolidge, whose previous top sale was $74,000.

Arthur Sarnoff (1912 - 2000) was an American artist who studied at the Industrial School and the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. He was a student of John Clymer and Andrew Wyeth. Sarnoff was a member of the Society of Illustrators and exhibited widely including at the National Academy of Design. While he did extensive commercial work for weekly magazines and his art appeared in a variety of advertising campaigns, he became equally known for his pool playing, card playing, and golfing dogs. Although his best known work is a painting of dogs playing pocket billiards entitled "Jack the Ripper", another called "The Hustler" was the best-selling print of the 1950s.

To visit my online store featuring a large variety of great products, gifts, and collectibles featuring my own whimsical animal illustrations, please go to Adele's Cute Animal Art Shop.

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