The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published August 24, 2012 Updated July 03, 2022

Arnold Schönberg

In around 1909 he created three sets of playing cards. His inventiveness was driven by a passion for rules, order and numbers.

1909 Austria Belmont Music Publishers Piatnik Schönberg Art & Design Add to Collection

Playing Cards created by Arnold Schönberg

"Self-expression is the thing! Direct self-expression! But not expressing one's taste, one's education or one's intellect, one's knowledge or one's skills. None of these acquired qualities. Rather the innate, instinctive qualities. And the quest for form - the conscious quest - is bound to involve some kind of mathematics, or geometry, the golden section and so on..." - Extract from a letter from Schönberg to Kandinsky, 24.1.1911.

Arnold Schönberg's (1874-1951) creativity was not limited to music. He practised several extra-musical pursuits, producing at least 250 paintings, toys, games, chess sets and playing cards for his own use. He even did his own bookbinding. In around 1909 he created three sets of playing cards. One set used grotesque imagery and visual puns from his caricatures and doodles, with the suit symbols integrated into the designs (see image→). Another set (shown below) is more severe and geometric, almost digital. His inventiveness was driven by a passion for rules, order and numbers, and his cards also reveal his capacity for highly personal expression. The elongated cards are divided into four suits (based upon clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds) each comprising both numeral and double-ended court cards. The designs don't contain many curves and are more technical than fluid. The influence of Jugendstil is recognisable. The third set is probably for children.

facsimile edition of playing cards painted by the composer Arnold Schönberg in c.1910, published by Belmont Music Publishers and produced by Ferd Piatnik (Vienna) in 1981

Above: this facsimile edition of playing cards painted by the composer Arnold Schönberg in c.1910 was published by Belmont Music Publishers in 1981 and produced by Ferd Piatnik (Vienna), with a preface by the composer's daughter, Nuria Schoenberg-Nono. The original cards were made in watercolours and gouache on cardboard with gold and silver, size: 10.5 by 5.5 cm. No reverse has been found for the cards so a coloured pattern painted in one of his diaries was used. (Click above image to see more). Thanks to Eike Fess for additional information; see Arnold Schönberg Centre website


Note: it is always fascinating to discover that even the greatest geniuses can be flawed. There is one small error on these cards which the great composer made but never corrected. Look carefully at the King of Hearts and you will see that he has forgotten to turn the suit-sign at the far end of the card. The Queen and Jack of Hearts are fine. Schönberg was human after all! - Roddy Somerville.

avatar
131 Articles

By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

A limited edition art print of the 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

2024 Piatnik’s 200<sup>th</sup> Anniversary

Piatnik’s 200th Anniversary

A special philatelic souvenir for Piatnik’s 200th anniversary, combining playing cards an...

Art pack, Austria

Art pack, Austria

Renaissance portraits by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Barthel Beham, Christoph Amber...

Sissi playing cards

Sissi playing cards

produced for the Austrian tourist market.

Portrait Playing Cards

Portrait Playing Cards

Portrait playing cards, featuring realistic drawings of people on the court cards instead of traditi...

2018 Marmite

Marmite

Fifty-Four images celebrating a UK savoury spread, that has been around one hundred and twenty two y...

2021 Film Noir

Film Noir

A deck of 55 cards, celebrating hard boiled heroes, wise-cracking women, mean streets, guns and gums...

2016 Science Fiction

Science Fiction

A deck of 55 cards, celebrating a time when Science Fiction truly was, Science Fiction.

1972 Feh Schnapskarten

Feh Schnapskarten

Colourful promotional pack for Feh household and toilet papers.

2010 Pin-Ups

Pin-Ups

A deck of 55 cards celebrating a golden age of cheeky, naughty, bold and curvy ladies in film.

2008 Classic Movie Posters

Classic Movie Posters

A deck of 55 cards presenting vintage classic movies and their stars.

2014 That’s Entertainment

That’s Entertainment

A deck of 55 cards celebrating 20th Century vaudeville, musicals and cabaret.

1985 Paco Lobo

Paco Lobo

Highly original and striking designs by Paco Lobo for the fashion house of the same name.

2000 Sweden playing cards

Sweden playing cards

Named characters from Swedish history.

2000 Romania playing cards

Romania playing cards

Romanian voivodes and their wives from the 15th and 16th centuries.

2021 Hitchcock

Hitchcock

A deck of 55 cards celebrating the master of mystery, murder and mayhem, Alfred Hitchcock.

1962 Jeu Boléro

Jeu Boléro

Sweeping, semi-abstract designs by J.L. Jolin in red and black only.

1968 Knoll International

Knoll International

Geometric designs by the French artist Jean Garçon for Knoll International, the furniture company.

1973 Marcello Morandini

Marcello Morandini

Modern designs by Italian artist Marcello Morandini using the simplest of forms and colours.

1997 Claude Weisbuch

Claude Weisbuch

Free reinterpretation of the traditional Paris pattern courts by the artist Claude Weisbuch.

2010 El Niño de las Pinturas

El Niño de las Pinturas

Forty-nine distinctive works by Spanish graffiti artist Raúl Ruiz.

1739 Trappola pack by Joseph Fetscher

Trappola pack by Joseph Fetscher

Trappola pack published by Joseph Fetscher, Graz, 1739.

1930 Celluloid Kasino-Poker Nr.92

Celluloid Kasino-Poker Nr.92

published by Mirakel-Spielkarten in Vienna

Trappola pack by Anton Herrl

Trappola pack by Anton Herrl

Trappola pack of 36 double-ended cards published by Anton Herrl, Graz, Austria.

2009 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pack featuring six images from the Disney film of the same name, on cards made for Eastern Europe.

2019 Pendleton playing cards

Pendleton playing cards

Pendleton playing cards inspired by indigenous American artwork, USA, 2019.

2009 Winnie the Pooh Rummy

Winnie the Pooh Rummy

Disney’s Winnie the Pooh and friends on a pack made for Eastern Europe.

2020 The Pack of Positivity

The Pack of Positivity

Katie Abey’s rainbow-coloured designs using crazy animals to convey motivating phrases.

2021 Old School Playing cards from Moon

Old School Playing cards from Moon

Designed and published by Leo Scherfig

2009 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Characters and scenes from the Disney film of the same name, on a pack made for Eastern Europe.

2009 Disney Princess

Disney Princess

Featuring Disney Princesses and Enchanting Tales in two sizes of pack made for Eastern Europe.

2009 Mickey Mouse Rummy

Mickey Mouse Rummy

Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other Disney characters on a pack made for Eastern Europe.

1978 Royal Hawaiian playing cards

Royal Hawaiian playing cards

Royal Hawaiian playing cards published by the Royal Hawaiian Playing Card Company, Honolulu.

1999 Shamrock Irish Heritage playing cards

Shamrock Irish Heritage playing cards

A celebration of some of Ireland’s most famous patriots, politicians and poets.

1960 Lenormand Wahrsage-Karten No. 55

Lenormand Wahrsage-Karten No. 55

Conventional Lenormand designs on a pack from Piatnik but with unconventional numbering.

2005 Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights (1001 Nights Tarot)

Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights (1001 Nights Tarot)

This tarot deck captures the idealised Eastern world's magic from the eighteenth and nineteenth cent...

1945 ORIENT The Queen of Cards

ORIENT The Queen of Cards

A unique Art creation of Subho Tagore

2015 Newtropolis and the Fantastic Fur

Newtropolis and the Fantastic Fur

Newtropolis and the Fantastic Fur: Heroes vs. Villains playing cards illustrated by Peter Wood, 2015...

2005 Budapest souvenir

Budapest souvenir

Colour views of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, on all the courts and Aces.

1996 Salmon Flies

Salmon Flies

Icelandic pack featuring a different salmon fly on every card.

1986 Baraja Española de Pintores Murcianos

Baraja Española de Pintores Murcianos

A Spanish-suited pack as conceived by 48 different artists from the region of Murcia.