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Game of Kings Artists
November 30, 2005

Checker Players

Thomas Anshutz, Checker Players, about 1895, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Orrin Wickersham June, 1967.136.4 (They're playing chess, if you squint.)

You'll want to read Ben Davis's Artnet write-up of the Noguchi Museum's exhibition, "The Imagery of Chess Revisited," whether you're a chess player or not. For an artist like Marcel Duchamp—for any number of thinkers—chess represents a conceptual framework for the world. As a concept rooted in an object, chess serves as an excellent template for artists.

I mined Davis's list and added a few other modernist and contemporary takes on the chess set:

If you clicked through all those links and didn't find your favorite, be sure to leave a note in comments. If you followed those links and found a favorite, feel free to mention that, too.

Posted by Kriston on November 30, 2005 in American Art Elsewhere


I really like the John Cage piece. I didn't realize he wasn't limited to composing music.

Cage was indeed much more than a composer. He was a strong graphic artist (his music manuscripts look better than anybody's), and a real writer too -- definitely worth considering among the poets of the 20th century.

That's Yayoi Kusama, by the way, and what a piece it is.

Thanks for the save, Vance.

I seemed to remember there being a Bauhaus chess set at MoMA, and behold, the power of the internets!

It's Josef Hartwig from 1924.

I used to own a really chintzy Bauhaus chess set—it was absolutely awful for playing. The blocks block all the lines of sight.

"Chess Pieces" - I luv it!

Just found you via Begging to Differ. Love the piece and photos of the Spiral Jetty. I look forward to returning...

I like Soare's piece. It really takes the idea of chess as a battlefield simulation, and wraps it around the whole world. Although it would be a serious strain to play on :P

The Fuller Craft Museum had an exhibition last year featuring different contemporary designs of chess sets. What made it especially fun was that they had set up several tables amidst the gallery with boards and sets for visitors to play as well. And so we did.

Similar to the Anshutz above, on a first search I found Frederick Waugh Chess Players 1891 on my hard drive. I can't provide a link, but most of my stuff comes from the Athenaeum or Art Renewal Center.

The Waugh might be interesting in that it depicts two young ladies at summer leisure, one posed at a moment of indecision. Chess historically has been a very sexist community.

I swear I have a pre-Renaissance painting around somewhere that I found remarkable.

I enjoyed the John Cage piece very much.

A timely Chelsea exhibit.

Oh, chess pieces. Of course, that's the title I wanted!

Came to the site from Grammar Police. Love the chess series, like listening to Paul Ray play the same blues song by four different artists . . .

I've always been a fan of Yoko Ono's all-white chess set, "Play it by trust".

Better than the Man Ray set in silver that you illustrate is the original wood set that is also in the show. The forms are identical, but the wooden pieces are found objects: mostly from a set of art educational aids entitled "Prang's Models for Form Study and Drawing", plus a scroll from a violin. The Dadaist nature of the original set is lost in the recasting of its forms in precious metals.

I saw the Noguchi exhibit -- It's a great one, and a nice side-trip from his better known sculptures in the same museum. A highlight for me was an exhibit by local students, who designed their own interpretive chess boards -- really creative.

I love the picture. i was an artist before I moved into business. The two kids in the picture are so alive! My family never allowed me to do art though I was offered a scholarhip to do it Paris! :(

But never mind. I love what I do now.

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