How Chess Influences and Is Influenced by Art and Culture

The rich traditions of chess dating back thousands of years, coupled with the evocative nature of the pieces with which it is played, has bestowed upon the game, a richly symbiotic relationship with global art and culture.

Two-Way Traffic

Physical manifestations of the game - chess boards and chessmen - have both inspired and been inspired by works of art produced by painters, sculptors, architects, authors, poets, musicians, dramatists, film directors, graphic designers, fashion designers, interior designers, and sundry artisans across genres, generations, and geographies.

Painters Inspired by Chess

Ever since chess gained popularity in Europe, around the 15th and 16th centuries, there have been a large number of painters who drew inspiration from this – the most noble of all games.

Some of them include:

Niccolò di Pietro's The Conversionof Saint Augustin in the early  15th century. Lucas van Leyden's The Game of Chess in the early 16th century.
Paris Bordone’s Chess players in the mid 16th century Antonis Mor’s Von Sachsen vs. a Spaniard in the mid 16th century
Hans Muelich’s Duke Albrecht of Bavaria and his wife Anna of Austria playing chess in the mid 16th century Karel van Mander’s Les joueurs d'échecs at the turn of the 17th century
Gustaf Lundberg’s Portrait of Gustav Badin in the late 18th century Honoré Daumier’s The Chess Players in the mid 19th century
Jean Metzinger’s Soldat jouant aux échecs in the early 20th century Juan Gris’ Jeu d'échecs in the early 20th century

The Most Famous Chess-Inspired Artist

Perhaps the most celebrated of these was the French- American painter, Marcel Duchamp - an avid chess player. One of his earliest and most renowned works was his 1911 cubist portrait titled Portrait of Chess Players depicting his brothers playing chess.

Duchamp was so taken by chess, that he briefly put his painting career on hold, in his pursuit to excel at the game. He nearly attained the status of being a master chess player. He is also credited with having designed the poster for the third French Chess Championship in 1925.

Here are some of Duchamps most famous quotes on chess:

"It (chess) has all the beauty of art – and much more.”

“Chess is much purer than art in its social position.”

“While not all artists are chess players, all chess players are artists.”

The Game’s Broader Influence on the Arts

Other famous exponents of various different art forms who are also known to be chess enthusiasts include:

    Author and poet – Lewis Carroll
    Author – Edgar Allen Poe
    Novelists – Leo Tolstoy and HG Wells
    Actor and novelist – Stephen Fry
    Actors – Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, and Humphrey Bogart
    Film director – Stanley Kubrick
    Film director and comedian – Woody Allen
    Music Composer – Serge Prokofiev

How Local Arts and Culture Influenced Chessmen Design

While it is a fact that chess has inspired many renowned works of art, it is just as true, that chess sets designs from around the world have been influenced by different facets of local art, history, tradition and culture.

Royal Chess Mall - leaders in the chess supplies manufacturing and e-retail space, presents some outstanding examples of chessmen designs – from traditional to contemporary, extravagantly themed to starkly minimalistic, originating from far-flung corners of the globe.

The Marengo Luxury Staunton Chess Set

This contemporary French design is rooted in the traditional design grammar of the Staunton line of chess sets –the global design standard for tournament level play first introduced to the Chess playing world in the early 1940s.

As one of several design variations of the Staunton design, these exquisitely crafted chessmen have a uniquely curvaceous profile, combining sheer elegance with the desired degree of stability and durability, making it one of the most sought-after design variants in the world.

4.3" triple-weighted Marengo Luxury Staunton Chess Set in Boxwood and Bud Rosewood

The King sports a unique tear-drop shaped finial distinct from the commonly seen Pattee. But what truly distinguishes the Marengo design from any other is the Knight.

While the Knight is generally considered the show-stopper in any chess sets, it takes on whole new dimension in the case of the Marengo set.

The characteristic downward tilt of the head with the distinctively flared mane is modelled on the majestic Arabian war stallion belonging to Napolean Bonaparte, named well...Marengo - which lends its name to the set as a whole.

The Alexandria Luxury Staunton Chess Set

This beautifully handcrafted set is another variation of the Staunton design. By and large, the Alexandria chessmen stay truer to the fundamental Staunton structure, although the King – with his unconventional designer Pattee and the Queen – with the multi-layered finial atop her coronet, do display some distinctive features

4.4” triple-weighted Alexandria Luxury Staunton Chess Set in Ebony & Bud Rosewood

But once again it is the Knight – characterized by the subtle bow of its head and its extravagant and dynamically depicted mane – that truly differentiates this design from other Staunton variants and makes the Alexandria one of the most coveted designs from the Royal Chess Mall stables.

The Herman Ohme Minimalistic Chess Set

Designed in the 1960s and named after its California-based creator, these subtle and sophisticated, impeccably-proportioned chessmen are characterized by their clean lines and curves and the sheer simplicity of their forms.

3.6" weighted Herman Ohme Minimalist Chess Set in Ebonized Boxwood

A Perfect example of the Neo-Danish Style, these replicas of the Herman Ohme chess pieces are meticulously hand-crafted and hand-polished by our master craftsmen at the Royal Chess Mall workshops, and are exquisitely finished in fine-grained Graded Boxwood and Golden Rosewood.

The Modern Brass Luxury Chess Set

These strikingly abstract, starkly minimalistic chessmen are made from solid brass and encircled by a series of brass rings made from Silvered Brass (for the light-colored pieces) and Antiqued Brass (for the dark-colored pieces). 

3.9" Silvered & antiqued metal Modern Luxury Chess Set in Brass

This unique and iconic piece of design reflects the distinctively original style of the inhouse craftsman at Royal Chess Mall, and is typically in high demand at any given point in time.