Smoking Art

Once tobacco reached Europe, smoking became a visual metaphor in art for the imagination. True artists need to convey the process by which their minds form images and they found pipes and cigarettes a clever way to do so.

The smoker inhales nicotine from the exterior world and then blows the substance out of his body again as smoke, just as the mind of a poetic painter imports scenes from outer reality and then “exports” them again onto canvas as something else. Besides, tobacco stimulates the mind and encourages reflection, an idea easily conveyed by a smoker deep in thought. In another serendipitous characteristic, smoke itself changes shape in the air, providing a concise metaphor for the metamorphosis of visual form within the artist’s imagination.

Making as much as possible out of a single metaphorical subject, artists sometimes use the shape of a cigarette (long, thin with a burning, red tip) to suggest a paintbrush in the artist’s hand with a blob of red paint on it.

All Articles (Alphabetical by Artist, then Title)

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