In these health-conscious times it is probably not often recalled that smoking was once considered the height of style. Ever since tobacco arrived in Europe after the Spanish conquest of the Americas, it had been thought medicinal, therapeutic, fashionable. By the nineteenth century, it was known as the divine weed. Art followed life, and through the eyes of artists, we can see the evolution of smoking and smokers. Here is a series of paintings from Russia and environs.
‘Young woman with cigarette‘ by Pyotr Zabolotsky (1803-1866) is first, and a surprising theme it is too. Women who smoked were considered somewhat infra dig, and yet this lovely, evidently upper-class woman, has no compunctions about being seen with a cigarette.
Above are a couple of works by Mikhail Larionov.
I’d never heard of Teodor Axentowicz (1859-1938), a Polish-Armenian artist, but this self-portrait is remarkable.
Two paintings by the Latvian artist Kārlis Padegs (1911-1940). He died tragically young of complications from tuberculosis, and was long forgotten until rediscovered in the 1980s.
Yet another Polish artist is Aleksander Gierymski (1850-1901), who painted Trumna chłopska (‘Peasant coffin’) between 1894-95.
And here’s Pokkasakki (Card players?) by the suicidal Finnish artist Vilho Lampi (1898-1936).
Boris Grigoriev’s ‘Man with pipe‘ is from 1922, after he left Russia for France. This was painted in Brittany.
Pyotr Konchalovsky (1867-1956) painted the director Vsevolod Meyerhold in this languid pose. Check out the dog on Meyerhold’s leg, only slightly more alert.
This is a much more recent work, a caricature perhaps? Passerby – by V. Kalinin.