Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Ball Dropped at 8:15 PM

New Year's Party down the block with kids:
the ball drops at 8:15 PM and then bedtime!

Also posted on my food blog.

Happy New Year and Good Birds in 2015!

Another beautiful high-key photo that Len took this week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Good Books, 2014

Well, 2014 is almost over and people are making lists. Here goes: good books that I've read this year, including some that we read in my various book clubs. I've written blog posts here or at my food blog about quite a few of them, but it never hurts to make a list.


  • Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
  • A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
  • A Replacement Life, Boris Fishman
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami
  • The Family Mashber, Der Nister


  • Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, Bee Wilson
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey, Gary Paul Nabhan
  • Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, Jeffrey M. Pilcher
  • The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret world of Hershey and Mars, Joel Glenn Brenner
  • My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit
  • One Summer: America, 1927, Bill Bryson
  • The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, Dan Jurafsky
  • Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, Thomas McNamee
  • Breaking Bread in Galilee: A Culinary Journey into the Promised Land, Abbie Rosner
  • Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, Marlene Zuk