Friday, October 17, 2014

Smokers in Art

I hate smoking. 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). Some have viewed smoking as a kind of consumption, analog to eating. In several recent museum experiences, especially last summer in Amsterdam and in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia a few days ago, I was fascinated by the large number of paintings that portray smokers enjoying pipes or cigarettes. Here are a few of them.

First, 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:

Gerrit Dou: Self-Portrait, c. 1640.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 
Man Smoking a Pipe: Gerard Dou, c. 1650.
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
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


~~louise~~ said...

Hi Mae!
It's ironic that you did a post about smoking today. We were having a rather in depth conversation about the difference in the smoking commercials of the past and the drug commercials of the present just today. Some were insisting that the cigarette commercials were much more entertaining. Can't say the same for these pictures but, they are notes of the past.

Thank you so much for sharing, Mae...

Jeanie said...

I hate smoking, too, and the smoke which really affects me physically. The pipes I never minded quite so much -- less smoke, more aroma. But the cigarettes and cigars really set me off. These paintings are great -- I really love the skeleton VanGogh. Never saw that one before.