While all the available work was lovely, there was one clear winner: Dogs playing cards. While the paintings may not have been 'well executed,' that black lab had eyes that gazed into my soul and these dogs started me thinking (after all, I make references to 'dogs playing cards' pretty frequently in painting conversations as they have almost the mystique of sad clowns): where did this (im)famous genre come from?
Enter wikipedia: In 1903, a series of playing dogs, 16 pieces to be exact, were commissioned from a Mister C. M. Coolidge for the advertisement of cigars. I think we all remember how effective fuzzy mammals are at selling smoking goods to all age groups. While not many view these paintings and want a cigar, we all can appreciate winsome approachability of these mutts. It has the same pleasing qualities of seeing a guy getting hit in the groin: always entertaining. Frankly, the paintings aren't all that bad from a technical standpoint. The lovely piece pictured above is His Station and Four Aces (picture taken from the 'dogs playing poker' wiki entry.)
For more dog immersion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogs_playing_poker