Our Favorite Gambling-Inspired Art Pieces

Art has been a staple for humanity from the beginning of its existence. From the first cave drawing and the beautifully constructed pyramids of Giza (which were once painted white and gold tipped), art has captivated our hearts and minds, and been used as a vital form of expression.

Art and art history is often used to inform us of feelings and occurrences in a historical context, with many great paintings standing the test of time, for example ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ painted by Emanuel Leutze in 1851 depicts George Washington crossing the Delaware river during the American Civil War in a strong leadership pose. 

Paintings like this are really useful and can help a modern audience understand the views of the past, particularly with this painting, in regard to George Washington and society’s stance on the war around the time.

However, art, at its core, is a form of entertainment. It is beauty to be admired, or something aesthetically triggering to provoke an emotional reaction from the viewer. For this reason, it’s to no one’s surprise that gambling and all the fun and stories it brings has been immortalized in the world of paintings. Here are our absolute favorites gambling-inspired art pieces from across the centuries.

Edvard Munch’s “At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo”

As an expressionist artist, Edvard Munch drew inspiration from the atmosphere of a poker club to craft a masterpiece that captured moods and emotions, rather than specific scenes. 

Drawing from his own recollections, Munch painted figures gathered around a green gaming table, engrossed in a game of roulette, which remains one of the popular casino games today. The roulette wheel and game symbolize life’s tension and drama, where a lot is at stake, portraying roulette as a game that engages both the mind and the spirit.

In the painting, tense and concentrated men and women crowd the roulette table, hands outstretched towards the wheel. A man resembling Munch stands to the left, recording the spins’ outcome. A diagonal line crosses from him over the green table to the vibrant red roulette wheel, creating dramatic movement reminiscent of Degas and Gauguin. 

Employing straightforward techniques and using somber, dark hues, Munch skillfully conveyed feelings of despair, hopelessness, and a certain fixation. Given that, the painting exemplifies Munch’s early exploration of his trademark style and fascination with the human psyche.

After spending considerable time in French card houses, Munch even found it relevant to include a self-portrait in the drawing. Positioned in the foreground, there’s a figure with their back to us, clutching a notebook and diligently recording the numbers from the roulette wheel.

Some of Edvard Munch’s other famous works include:

“The Scream” 

Definitely Munch’s most famous work, ‘the scream’ painting is an iconic representation of existential anxiety and inner turmoil. It features a figure on a bridge, their face screaming, surrounded by a swirling, vividly coloured sky.

“The Dance of Life”

This triptych showcases three stages of life – youth, adulthood, and old age – through a dynamic and vibrant dance scene. It’s a powerful representation of the passage of time, which really reflects the depth at which Munch thought about the subject and theme of his paintings.

“The Sick Child” 

In a poignant exploration of grief and loss, this emotionally charged painting portrays the death of Munch’s own sister from tuberculosis.

“The Vampire” 

This painting features a close embrace between a man and a woman, with the woman’s face obscured by the man’s, and has often been interpreted by art critics and experts as a representation of love, desire, with perhaps even a touch of danger.

“The Girls on the Bridge” 

In this painting, Munch captures the youthful exuberance of two girls on a bridge, set against a backdrop of a picturesque Norwegian landscape. It’s a refreshing contrast to many of his darker, more emotionally intense works.

“Starry Night” 

Not to be confused with Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting of the same name, Munch’s “Starry Night” is a depiction of a starry sky over a landscape, with a solitary figure in the foreground.

The Cardsharps – Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The Cardsharps, about 1595.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The Cardsharps, about 1595. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

During Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s career as an artist, he captured the essence of society through his creations, shedding light both literally and metaphorically on different aspects of the world at the time. One of our favourites, and also one of his most notable works is “The Cardsharps”.

The painting is a beautiful, vivid portrayal of the Baroque era, marking a pivotal moment in Caravaggio’s artistic journey. He unveils a scene of deceitful card play in the style of narrative art, he illustrates the tale of a well-to-do young man who falls prey to two cunning card players, as we the audience can see with one of the men concealing extra cards behind his back, ready to deploy at a subtle signal from an accomplice positioned behind the unsuspecting youth, who scrutinizes his hand, providing cues to his partner. 

Caravaggio’s masterful depiction really shows his talent, especially with how he is able to delve into the intricate emotions of the characters, offering a revealing glimpse into each person’s motives and lives, as well as the further realities of street life at the time.

What’s more, Carravaggio himself was a rather interesting subject, known for being volatile and violent, and having actually committed murder. He was known as a painter for his dark works, and religious scenes.

Some of Carravaggio’s other famous works include:

“The Calling of Saint Matthew”

This masterpiece depicts the moment when Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, to become one of his disciples. The painting is just one of many incredibly realistic religious depictions.

“Judith Beheading Holofernes” 

In this gruesome yet captivating work, Caravaggio portrays the biblical heroine Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes. The painting is renowned, having captivated audiences around the world for years for its intense realism and the visceral depiction of such a violent act.

“The Supper at Emmaus” 

This painting captures the moment when the resurrected Christ reveals himself to two of his disciples in the town of Emmaus. The emotional impact of the revelation is heightened by Caravaggio’s skillful use of light and shadow.

“Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness” 

This painting depicts John the Baptist in a contemplative pose, holding a reed cross. Caravaggio’s use of light draws attention to the figure’s introspective expression and the play of shadows on his skin.

“Narcissus”

Caravaggio’s interpretation of the mythological figure Narcissus shows the youth gazing at his own reflection in a pool of water.

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