Cassius Marcellus Coolidge
Born September 18, 1844, in Antwerp, New York, Coolidge in his childhood used crayons to sketch scenes around his parents' farm. Apart from a brief tutelage from a portrait painter in New York, Coolidge had no formal training in the arts, relying solely on his natural talent. By the time the turned twenty, he was drawing cartoons for the local newspaper, as well as earning money as a "lightning artist" doing quick sketches of people in front of a paying audience.
In the mid-1870's, Coolidge began painting what would now be called "furry art", creating scenes with dogs in human settings, though it is not known what inspired him to do so.
Coolidge's first commerical "furry" work was created around 1895, when he painted a poster for the Columbia Bicycle Company of Massachusetts, depicting a monkey riding a bicycle with a parrot perched on the handlebars.
Work for Brown & Bigelow
In 1903, Coolidge was contacted by the Brown & Bigelow advertising company of St. Paul, Minnesota, and commissioned to create sixteen works depicting dogs in various human poses. These would become his most famous pictures. Thematically, the works thus created were:
- A Bachelor's Dog (sitting in an armchair smoking a cigar)
- Breach of Promise Suit (a courtroom scene)
- New Year's Eve in Dogville (a formal dance)
- One to Tie, Two to Win (watching a baseball game)
- Riding the Goat (performing stunts for the amusement of royalty)
- Sitting up with a Sick Friend (two females intrude on a group socialising around a table)
- Ten Miles to a Garage (trying to fix a broken-down car)
- The Reunion (sitting around a table smoking long pipes)
- A Bold Bluff, A Friend in Need, His Station and Four Aces, Pinched with Four Aces, Poker Sympathy, Post Mortem, Stranger in Camp, and Waterloo (playing poker)
Other works of Coolidge depicting anthropomorphic dogs include Kelly Pool (dogs holding cues around a pool table), No Graft here (a St. Bernard in judicial robes) and Only a Pair of Deuces (another poker scene).
Coolidge married late in life (1909), at the age of sixty-four. At around this time, the demand for his caricatures dropped, and Coolidge tended to the housechores while his wife worked as a filing clerk in a Manhattan law office.
In 1928, the couple moved to Grasmere, Staten Island, where Coolidge passed away on January 13, 1934.
Cassius Coolidge's works have earned a place in the history of kitsch Americana, and are immediately recognisable around the world today. His theme of "dogs playing poker" has been imitated by other artists, and his works have been placed on all manner of merchandise from posters to neckties to Franklin Mint plates.
On February 15, 2005, two Coolidge originals (A Bold Bluff and Waterloo: Two) sold at auction in New York for $590,400.