Art in the White House: Taste, Preference and Personality
Having art items selected by presidents for their new home at the White House is a custom that has been around not for ages… but from the 1961 Act that shed a green light to the art collection in the White House. Each president had contributed to the overall estimate of 65,000 art objects of which 500 paintings.
On the other side, arts in the White House do not only serve as decoration elements but transmit clues for political preferences and personality traits. For example, Ronald Regan imported the portrait of Calvin Coolidge, a Republican lawyer who had been elected as the 30th governor of the US between the years of 1923 to 1929.
Controversially, the Obamas were into abstract art. In fact, every time when the presidential couple arrives in the White House, the curator office has the responsibility for delivering the preferred work of art to the House. The represented exemplars of their likes are the ‘Resurrection’ by Alma Thomas installed in the Family Dining Room.
What about the preferences of President Trump? Well, his approach was definitely out of the box when he requested a Van Gogh’s painting from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, located into the heart of the Manhattan island. The museum exposes contemporary pieces of art. The request was denied by the museum’s chief curator, Nancy Spector, though, they suggested a replacement item – a satirical sculpture by Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, named America. The sculpture represents an 18-karat golden loo. The Guardian provides a sensible perspective on why Trump would turn down the golden toilette.
The reasons behind the decision of Mr Trump seeking the Landscape with Snow (1888) by Van Gogh from a museum that never had a loan agreement with the White House’s Administration to finance art pieces are still a fortunate mystery since the presidential office refused to respond to the interview appeals.
And then, there was another hype that everyone was talking about it – The Republican Club by Andy Thomas.
— Amber Thweatt (@TripleGirl1) 15 October 2018
It is not strange to see a portrait of Trump as American Presidents usually leave a piece of themselves hanging onto the white walls. Although, Mr Trump seems not to be wasting his time and wait till the end of his presidential career is down.
Nonetheless, the painting by the artist Andy Thomas creates an imaginary scene of present and past presidents of America enjoying themselves over a drink. The characters around the table are Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald R. Ford, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Abraham Lincoln. All of them, supporters and leaders of the Republican party. Thomas’s creation also opened a new discussion among twitters.
"It's . . . it's one of those poker-playing dogs paintings but . . . but the dogs are . . . Republican presidents! Nixon's laughing! And Trump . . . Trump looks like he just farted!"
— MyTwoWheats ❄ (@MyTwoWheats) October 15, 2018
Many people associate the canvas with another dog painting by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, an artist who didn’t enjoy the recognition he deserved for his famously know “Dogs Playing Poker” series belonging to the lineage of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Michelangelo’s David.
I hope it’s Trump with the poker playing dogs. pic.twitter.com/PzWagGYGLF
— Mark Thompson (@Son_of_a_Thomp) October 15, 2018
Thus, Trump’s ‘Republican Club’ is just of similar humoristic quality as the ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ where animals are humanized.
Initially, the dog paintings were considered of very low class as they did not possess any artistical value but were rather classified as kitsch and used as an advertisement to sell products. Such paintings are usually sold by the road or highway exits and gas stations from vendors across the US. In short, everyone was shocked to locate the portrait of Trump and Republican leaders hanging on the wall in his office. Truly, the picture is not the only one. The illustrations display both Republicans and Democrats socializing whether by having a drink or playing pool.
Some people even state that Trump is the equivalent of the greyish bulldog in “A Friend in Need”, the dog painting series where the bulldog passes the ace card to its fellow player hidden from the sight of the other dogs on the playing table. This version displays everyone being upset with Trump while an Ace shows up from the right-hand sleeve.
According to the creator of ‘the Republican Club’, Trump and Lincoln are the story-tellers on the illustration and they both entertain the others with their back-and-forth remarks. ‘We do know what opinions both hold, but they certainly possess opposite personality traits’, says Andy.
‘Dogs Playing Poker’ – A Series Enduring the Test of Time
The first painting out of the 16th in the portfolio of Coolidge was created in 1903, and it is the most famously known of all. Okay, but why is it so that no one of us has not heard of the artist’s name before? I mean we all know Rembrandt, Da Vinci and Michelangelo or Van Gogh… and other lesser known artists.
According to the town historian of Philadelphia, Mrs Acheson: ”He (Cassius Coolidge) is supposed to be the Michelangelo of the dog world.” In fact, it becomes apparent that the hometown of Coolidge is the place where his contribution to the world of art is still remembered.
The only evidence of his facial features is one kept on a restored self-portrait that is preserved in the library of the American Antwerp.
Coolidge was a man of the business environment as well as a creative genius. He had started ventures like inaugurating a drug store, setting up a whole bank, drawing cartoons and teaching art. The Philadelphia historian shares that Coolidge wrote a comic-opera, involving mosquitos and New Jersey, made comic cut-outs of a ‘fat man in a bathing suit’ for people to take pictures behind and he also worked on his idea to paint daily social activities performed by human-beings under the disguise of dogs.
”His paintings of people look like dogs,” ”I don’t think his people are very good, but his dogs are wonderful.” Moira Harris, an art historian in St. Paul
People only see the humoristic character of his painting. Truth be told, Mr Coolidge painted big, bad, smart and small dogs which tend to perform masculine activities like drinking beer, smoking cigars, and playing poker. It describes the world of a man. His only daughter, aged 80, shares that a cat would be a misfit in such an environment.
In early 1900, Mr Coolidge is hired by an advertising agency, the Brown & Bigelow, where he creates 16 of the dog scenes – from court debates, train commutes, ballparks to dogs engaged in tea dancing – the company used his materials for the print of calendars, posters and other materials. But he realizes that dogs such as mastiffs, collies, Great Danes and tinier bulldogs belonged to leather chairs, poker salons, cigar puffs and playing cards. Those are some of his most remarkable paintings:
- 1. ‘Bold Bluff’ is the first painting in the collection. The drawing displays a Saint Bernard, smocking a cigar and staring in the cards and chips of the other players. Meanwhile, his hand consists of a pair of deuces. The dog players are interested in knowing what cards the Bernard is holding. Would they get bluffed? Bets are on.
- 2. The ‘A Friend in Need’ shows two bulldogs helping each other. The one bulldog is passing over an ace to his fellow bulldog friend to he can get a hand of 4 aces. Additionally, the clock on the wall shows that the dogs are playing in the wee hours of the morning.
- 3. ‘His Station and Four Aces’ – The train conductor (dog in blue) informs the passengers (playing dogs) that they are about to disembark on the next train station. The dog on the left side of the table has a quite shocked expression. The truth is that the dog is holding 4 Aces in his hand and has a very small pile of chips. Therefore, the gameplay would be interrupted, and he would not be able to play his hand. The other standing dog has already packed and is ready to leave. On the outside of the window, you can see the train station’s lights.
- 4. ‘Pinched with Four Aces’ – It must be one of my favourites due to the chaos factor. Yet, if you are not sure what it is going on, here is the specification.
The police officers disrupt an illegal game. The collie is obviously about to make a quick getaway, knocking over chips and spilling beverages. The other dogs are thrilled to be visited unexpectedly. The bulldog is frustrated as he was dealt 4 aces that he would not be able to benefit from.
- 5. ‘Poker Sympathy’ – If you focus on the background, you would get a sight of the portraits of famous dogs incorporated on the wall. When looking at the table, you would discover the pot noticeably large, indicating that it was the last round of making bets. The bulldog with his eyes on us was confident in his 4-ace hand, but the bulldog on the opposite end of the table had a straight flush. The winner in the game is loudly barking at the defeated opponent, spilling drinks, and getting the loser to drop his booze and cigar. The rest are enjoying the scene.
- 6. ‘Waterloo’ – It is the last painting from the playing dog series, and it is the continue to the Saint Bernard’s mysterious bluff at the beginning. It looks like the bulldog has caught the bluff of the Sant Bernard and called the bet.
However, the Bernard was not bluffing as he got a pair of deuces while the bulldog got a pair of jacks. Thus, the bulldog is beaten, and Saint Bernard collects the chips with its paws.
In the end, do you think Trump may be playing the role of any of those dog characters? We certainly believe he would do great if he plays the bulldog in the series.