Saturday, December 06, 2014

Smokers in Art: With Update

Sapeck (Eugène Bataille):
Mona Lisa with a Pipe, 1883
I hate smoking. But I'm quite fascinated by smokers as they appear in artworks. A few days ago, I did a post on smokers in art for my food blog -- since some people have viewed smoking as a kind of consumption, analog to eating. I'm aware of a lot more smokers in art than I included there, though, so I'm expanding the post to include more pictures along with those in my earlier post.

Of course the first artwork I want to add is one of the numerous parodies of Mona Lisa smoking (though recently, she seems to have given up tobacco for other substances).

I chose the very early Mona Lisa parody at left. It was made before the theft in 1911 inspired a rage of interpretations, and long before Marcel Duchamp's famous "L.H.O.O.Q." Its creator was "proto-performance artist Sapeck (Eugène Bataille), who was known to travel the streets with his head painted blue." Evidently there were surrealist types in Paris well before the Dada movement! (source)

But to return to the topic of smoking in more serious art: during the Dutch Golden Age many painters of homey scenes included smokers. Around 150 years after America -- source of tobacco -- began supplying novel products for the European market, smoking seems to have been very well-established:

Adriaen Brouwer: The Smoker, 1630-1638
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Adriaen Brouwer: Smokers, ca. 1636
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gerrit Dou: Self-Portrait, c. 1640.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 
Gerrit Dou: Man Smoking a Pipe, c. 1650.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Adriaen Van Ostade: from Travelers at Rest
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Adriaen Van Ostade: The Smoker, c. 1647.
Adriaen Van Ostade: Smoker at a Window,
c. 1667. Detroit Institute of Arts
Dirck Hals: Gentlemen Smoking and Playing Backgammon, c. 1687
Vincent van Gogh painted several smokers:

An early Picasso in the Barnes collection surprised me with the cigarette in her hand:

Picasso: Woman with Cigarette, 1903
Throughout his career, Picasso continued to include smokers in a large number of his works. Many photos of Picasso show him with a cigarette. Here's one from over 60 years later:

Picasso: The Smoker, 1964

Cezanne painted a few smokers as well. Two pipe smokers are included in his famous card players, and his 1897 portrait of Henry Gasquet includes a cigarette:

Finally, also at the Barnes, this wonderful picture -- I believe the man in the lower left is smoking as he waits for his child to finish his music lesson. I couldn't stop looking at this painting.

Henri Matisse: The Music Lesson

Lucien Freud: Boy Smoking, 1950-51
Tate Gallery, London
As I said on my food blog -- I dislike the smell, the activity, and the risks involved with smoking. I'm very happy that it's no longer allowed in most public interior spaces, and it's becoming less and less common in outdoor public spaces. It's been years since anyone even gave a single thought to smoking inside my house, or inside most homes. That said, smoking was once a common activity, shared and enjoyed by a large part of the population (though some paid dearly for having done so). And it's thus well-represented in art.

Update, December 6, 2014. From the book Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures by Marcy Norton -- an exceptional early Spanish painting of smokers:
(atribuido a Antonio de Puga)
La taberna, ca. 1660-1670
Museo de Pontrevedra, Pontevedra, Spain
... and one of many paintings with smokers by David Tenniers the younger (1640):

"The Smoker" by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1863)
Detroit Institute of Arts.


Jeanie said...

I've noticed smokers in paintings before (including some of these!) but never really thought about it sociologically or as a theme. Most interesting. (I agree with you about the Matisse -- it's mesmerizing -- a world in itself). I've always thought it must be difficult to get the illusion of the smoke, transparent, almost.

Vagabonde said...

I had not really looked at smoking as a theme in paintings, but you did find some famous paintings on this subject. It is funny now how we view smoking. I was watching an old I Love Lucy rerun and her husband Ricky was smoking – I noticed it immediately. I would not have noticed it years ago, as so many people smoke then everywhere – including my father, who smoke two packs of Gauloise a day (his death was attributed to lung cancer.)

Jens Zorn said...

Thanks for this post... an interesting complement to discussions on smoking in cinema which, in recent times, have led to parental advisories in movie review, e.g : " .... violence, partial nudity, smoking"