The Art of Casino

The origins of casino and its classic games has long been represented in paintings.

The origins of casino and its classic games have long been represented in paintings. The act of gambling has been a long-standing past time for as long as time has been recorded, the games have just progressed as the world has changed around us, now most popular online, especially at places like These paintings are a good way of observing the different stages of these games, some of them being from a time where photography hadn’t yet been invented, so any other recordings of these games would have been impossible. 

The first painting we are going to observe is Edvard Munch’s At the Roulette Table, as shown here. Painted in 1892, this example of Munch’s work took inspiration from his stay in Niece, where he regularly visited a Monte Carlo casino. In 1860, the German government had actually abolished gambling, so the Monte Carlo casino was the last remaining legal casino operation still available in Europe. At the Roulette Table was created from his memories and feelings from his time at the Roulette tables. 

In the 1800s, Roulette had finally made its way across the globe and onto the shores of the United States. America then decided to put their own spin on the classic Roulette wheel by adding a double zero to the game, upgrading the game from 37 numbers to 38, along with incorporating the colour green onto the wheel for said zeros. Further on into the 19th century, Roulette became widely renowned throughout the westernised parts of the world, now being thought of a as a premium Casino game.

Perhaps the most famous of all the casino-themed works of art is Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s 1894 Dogs Playing Poker. This painting, shown here, is known just about everywhere, or at least a variant of it is, as Coolidge went on to create eight more versions of the image throughout his career. Now, you may be thinking to yourself that the name “Coolidge” isn’t ringing many bells. Well, that’s because he never really became a prominent or famous figure within the artistic realm. In fact, many chose to dub his work as “bad” or simply “kitsch”. However, Coolidge most certainly has the last laugh, as his painting is known, and copies owned, all around the world! 

Poker was developed some time during the early 19th century in the United States, quickly becoming a popular pastime amongst many. The game began as a series of five-hand rounds, played in a variety of forms, with 52 cards. 20-card Poker was another variant of the game, designed for two players – it became common practice in England to reduce the deck in card games when there were fewer players around the table. The development of Poker was later linked to the historical movement that also saw the invention of commercial gambling! 

Put up for sale in 2011, Slot Machine Queen, seen here, is another example of a “bad” gambling artwork. Painted in a loveable, yet gawdy style, Shelly Wilkinson captures the sheer excitement of a game of Slots with this piece in the form of one glamorous elderly lady. The painting may not be well known but it definitely strikes a similar feel as Dogs Playing Poker, with bright colours and vivid imagery. 

The Slot machine was first developed by a New York-based company called Sittman and Pitt, back in 1887. At first, the machine was quite primitive and referred to as a “poker gambling machine”, the inside of the game consisting of five drums and a total of 50 playing cards, often found in pubs. Payouts had to be collected at the bar and would be in the form of cigars or free drinks. As the 1990s rolled around, the world welcomed the Liberty Bell Slot machine, the first of its kind to offer automatic cash payouts – all thanks to Charles Fey! 1976 then saw the introduction of the first true video screen slot machine, the kind that we know today, and the very machine that is featured in Wilkinson’s painting!

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