History Lesson: ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ ... in Antwerp?

History Lesson: Dogs playing poker ... in Antwerp?
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 6:29 AM EST
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ANTWERP, New York (WWNY) - In your art history textbooks, you’re sure to have seen the works of Cassius Coolidge. But a detail you may have missed: he’s from Antwerp.

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge was born in 1844 where Antwerp meets Philadelphia.

Starting life as a farm boy, Cassius was a man of many talents and soon became a drugstore owner, Antwerp’s town clerk, and a banker.

He actually started the first bank in Antwerp and founded Antwerp’s first newspaper. He also wrote for the Watertown Daily Times.

But all of those weren’t his true passion, painting was. He did comics and illustrations, but his specialty was dogs playing games.

These images became well-known for their originality.

The farm boy from Antwerp became immortalized through the poker pups, with references popping up dozens of times in pop culture shows and even music videos.

And if that’s not enough, Cassius also invented Comic Foregrounds, which you’ve surely stuck you head into at carnivals or tourist traps a time or two.

Such big things came from Cassius, who never forgot his small-town roots and is buried at Hillside Cemetery in Antwerp.

Like many artists, Coolidge’s paintings increased in value after his death. The most famous one, Poker Game, sold for $650,000 in 2015.