Larry Day, Poker Game

Larry Day: Poker Game (1970) Oil on canvas
Poker Game
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Gift of Ruth Fine, 1999
60 1/2 x 72 1/4 in.

This painting depicts some of the first participants of a poker game that has taken place every month since 1963. Seated clockwise from left are five of Day's fellow artists: Armand Mednick, Dennis Leon, David Pease, Massimo Pierucci (mostly obscured), and Jimmy Lueders. The empty chair denotes Day's place at the table. Mednick still plays on the first Sunday of every month with others who have joined the game over the years.

The painting is set in Leon's studio, with its roll-down garage door, red curtain, and mysterious doorway. Day imbues the scene with portentous stillness, capturing the moment when the players contemplate how to respond to a bet being placed by Pease, the man in the white hat and blue jacket. The card table was purchased by Lueders at Wanamaker's department store.

Day was keenly aware of the history of art and the collections of the great museums of Philadelphia. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he made the transition from abstraction to figurative painting, he looked intently at Dutch genre scenes, particularly Jan Steen's Merry Company (c. 1663-67). Day's version of this painting, After Jan Steen, is included in the exhibition. Poker Game also recalls Paul Cezanne's monumental Card Players (1890-92), in the collection of the Barnes Foundation. Like Cezanne, Day conveys a sense of the opposing attributes of the games: its social, interactive quality and the specific reactions of individuals to one another and the broader social web.


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