Smoke

Modern and contemporary art curator Ian Alteveer contemplates the good and the bad associations of smoke.

Loading

I'm a little obsessed with smoke at the moment, being an ex-smoker who has tried many times to quit.

Play again
Connections Home

URL
Share
Sign Up

New Connections appear every Wednesday. Sign up for a reminder.

Captions On
/
  • Ian Alteveer
    1280850
  • [Motion Study of Smoke Vortices Caused by Electric Fan]  |  1934  |  Harold Edgerton (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Gift of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1997 (1997.62.18)  |  © Harold and Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press, Inc.
    7181024
  • Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9, 1910  |  May 9, 1910  |  Lewis W. Hine (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Gift of Phyllis D. Massar, 1970 (1970.727.1)
    1280965
  • Dead End II  |  1936  |  Ilse Bing (German)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Bequest of Ilse Bing Wolff, 1998 (2003.151.12)  |  © Estate of Ilse Bing, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery
    1198797
  • Der Fleck auf dem Spiegel, den der Atemhauch schafft  |  1977  |  Dieter Appelt (German)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.482)  |  © Dieter Appelt
    980750
  • Mein Liebesbangen! (My Heartache!)  |  ca. 1910  |  Unknown Artist (German)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Funds from various donors, 2010 (2010.293)
    6491024
  • Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight  |  1882–83  |  Georges Seurat (French)  |  Conté crayon  |  Gift of Alexander and Grégoire Tarnopol, 1976 (1976.243)
    1280969
  • Factory Smoke  |  1877–79  |  Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (French)  |  Black ink printed on laid paper (monotype)  |  The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1982 (1982.1025)
    11811024
  • The Hand of Man  |  1902, printed 1920s  |  Alfred Stieglitz (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.459)
    1280963
  • [Smoke Stack]  |  1920s–30s  |  William Rittase (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.201)
    8161024
  • [Woman with Cigarette Holder]  |  1954  |  William Klein (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Purchase, Joyce and Robert Menschel Gift, 1989 (1989.1038.2)  |  © William Klein / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC
    7651024
  • The Smoker—The Match—The Cigarette  |  1911  |  Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005 (2005.100.247)
    12531024
  • The Smokers  |  probably ca. 1636  |  Adriaen Brouwer (Flemish)  |  Oil on wood  |  The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.21)
    8181024
  • The Smokers  |  probably ca. 1636  |  Adriaen Brouwer (Flemish)  |  Oil on wood  |  The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.21)
    1280891
  • Shahnama (The Book of Kings)  |  ca. 1430–40  |  Abu'l Qasim Firdausi  |  India  |  Ink, colors, and gold on paper  |  The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920 (20.120.248)
    10341024
  • Shahnama (The Book of Kings)  |  ca. 1430–40  |  Abu'l Qasim Firdausi  |  India  |  Ink, colors, and gold on paper  |  The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920 (20.120.248)
    1280918
  • [Smoke] From the Series "My Ghost"  |  1999  |  Adam Fuss (English)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000 (2000.330)   |  © Adam Fuss
    6931024
  • [Smoke] From the Series "My Ghost"  |  1999  |  Adam Fuss (English)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000 (2000.330)   |  © Adam Fuss
    1280979
  • Ian Alteveer
    1280849
  • My name is Ian Alteveer and I work here in the department of nineteenth-century, modern and contemporary art.

  • Smoke connotes so many different changing and fluid meanings. At once

  • it's terrible, it's really bad for you, but it also has such meaning

  • in terms of progress, of that movement, of that evanescence of the quickness of history.

  • I'm a little obsessed with smoke at the moment, being an ex-smoker who has tried many times to quit

  • unsuccessfully and if my mother's hearing this right now I apologize 'cause she would absolutely be appalled, and so in thinking through my own process I've been looking for smoke.

  • And smoke is such a leitmotif that represents industrial progress and

  • new modernity, symbolized by factories and everything they make. But then the other side of the coin with that of course is

  • pollution and darkness and new directions that are unclear, and so the fog, the steam, the smoke that train engines make, that factories make, represents both sides of this. And photographs abound of

  • just the shapes of those buildings. Images that were actually commissioned by magazines and by companies to show progress. This one for example showing just this diagonally thrusting smokestack with that wonderful white plume pouring out almost as if you were looking down the end of a cigarette and seeing the smoke coming off of it.

  • I'm also struck by images of smoking and glamour. It's hard to look at now because we know how terrible it is, yet it's also sometimes so hard to separate the badness of smoking from how

  • amazing some of the images of it are. In an early twentieth-century photograph of the act of a man smoking, lighting his cigarette, putting it up to his mouth, it's recorded on the surface of the photograph. The sweep of his arm, the action towards the mouth, which you know reminds me what is smoking but a kind of sexy thing that draws your, that draws yours and someone else's attention to your mouth.

  • Smoking as an embodiment of a kind of libertine lifestyle is something that comes up in seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painting. And of course the Dutch--I should know, my father is Dutch--are great

  • great moralizers about many things. To see a young gentleman disporting himself with his friends in a tavern scene was a certain symbol. And there's

  • so many images where smoke comes in front of a visage, and we have trouble seeing through it. And that in particular goes for an amazing manuscript illumination. You see a dark wizard

  • unleashing a cloud upon the Iranian army to confuse them. The wizard, whose name is Bazur, is a man from the East and embodies all of the sort of mystery that has been associated through time with the so-called Orient.

  • I was struck by something someone told me recently, that smoke is an offering of sorts. That it drifts from the ground towards heaven.

  • Smoke is able to symbolize both something absolutely immaterial, but also sometimes has such body. It takes forms. It creates shapes in pictures

  • that it doesn't in real life.

  • 1997.62.18
    [Motion Study of Smoke Vortices Caused by Electric Fan], 1934, Harold Edgerton (American), Gelatin silver print Gift of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1997 (1997.62.18) © Harold and Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press, Inc.
  • 1970.727.1
    Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9, 1910, May 9, 1910, Lewis W. Hine (American), Gelatin silver print Gift of Phyllis D. Massar, 1970 (1970.727.1)
  • 2003.151.12
    Dead End II, 1936, Ilse Bing (German), Gelatin silver print Bequest of Ilse Bing Wolff, 1998 (2003.151.12) © Estate of Ilse Bing, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery
  • 1993.482
    Der Fleck auf dem Spiegel, den der Atemhauch schafft, 1977, Dieter Appelt (German), Gelatin silver print Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.482) © Dieter Appelt
  • 2010.293
    Mein Liebesbangen! (My Heartache!), ca. 1910, Unknown Artist (German), Gelatin silver print Funds from various donors, 2010 (2010.293)
  • 1976.243
    Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight, 1882–83, Georges Seurat (French), Conté crayon Gift of Alexander and Grégoire Tarnopol, 1976 (1976.243)
  • 1982.1025
    Factory Smoke, 1877–79, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (French), Black ink printed on laid paper (monotype) The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1982 (1982.1025)
  • 2005.100.459
    The Hand of Man, 1902, printed 1920s, Alfred Stieglitz (American), Gelatin silver print Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.459)
  • 1987.1100.201
    [Smoke Stack], 1920s–30s, William Rittase (American), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.201)
  • 2005.100.247
    The Smoker—The Match—The Cigarette, 1911, Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian), Gelatin silver print Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005 (2005.100.247)
  • 32.100.21
    The Smokers, probably ca. 1636, Adriaen Brouwer (Flemish), Oil on wood The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.21)
  • 20.120.248
    Shahnama (The Book of Kings), ca. 1430–40, Abu'l Qasim Firdausi, India, Ink, colors, and gold on paper The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920 (20.120.248)
  • 2000.330
    [Smoke] From the Series "My Ghost", 1999, Adam Fuss (English), Gelatin silver print Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000 (2000.330) © Adam Fuss
  • [Motion Study of Smoke Vortices Caused by Electric Fan], 1934, Harold Edgerton (American), Gelatin silver print Gift of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1997 (1997.62.18) © Harold and Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press, Inc.
    Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9, 1910, May 9, 1910, Lewis W. Hine (American), Gelatin silver print Gift of Phyllis D. Massar, 1970 (1970.727.1)
    Dead End II, 1936, Ilse Bing (German), Gelatin silver print Bequest of Ilse Bing Wolff, 1998 (2003.151.12) © Estate of Ilse Bing, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery
    Der Fleck auf dem Spiegel, den der Atemhauch schafft, 1977, Dieter Appelt (German), Gelatin silver print Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.482) © Dieter Appelt
    Mein Liebesbangen! (My Heartache!), ca. 1910, Unknown Artist (German), Gelatin silver print Funds from various donors, 2010 (2010.293)
    Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight, 1882–83, Georges Seurat (French), Conté crayon Gift of Alexander and Grégoire Tarnopol, 1976 (1976.243)
    Factory Smoke, 1877–79, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (French), Black ink printed on laid paper (monotype) The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1982 (1982.1025)
    The Hand of Man, 1902, printed 1920s, Alfred Stieglitz (American), Gelatin silver print Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.459)
    [Smoke Stack], 1920s–30s, William Rittase (American), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.201)
    The Smoker—The Match—The Cigarette, 1911, Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian), Gelatin silver print Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005 (2005.100.247)
    The Smokers, probably ca. 1636, Adriaen Brouwer (Flemish), Oil on wood The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.21)
    Shahnama (The Book of Kings), ca. 1430–40, Abu'l Qasim Firdausi, India, Ink, colors, and gold on paper The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920 (20.120.248)
    [Smoke] From the Series "My Ghost", 1999, Adam Fuss (English), Gelatin silver print Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000 (2000.330) © Adam Fuss
    8000–2000 B.C.
    2000–1000 B.C.
    1000 B.C.–1 A.D.
    1–500 A.D.
    500–1000 A.D.
    1000–1400 A.D.
    1400–1600 A.D.
    1600–1800 A.D.
    1800–1900 A.D.
    1900–Present

    Works of art in order of appearance

    Last Updated: August 19, 2013. Not all works of art in the Museum's collection may be on view on a particular day. For the most accurate location information, please check this page on the day of your visit.

    [Motion Study of Smoke Vortices Caused by Electric Fan]
    1934
    Harold Edgerton (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Gift of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1997 (1997.62.18)
    © Harold and Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press, Inc.
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9, 1910
    May 9, 1910
    Lewis W. Hine (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Gift of Phyllis D. Massar, 1970 (1970.727.1)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Dead End II
    1936
    Ilse Bing (German)
    Gelatin silver print
    Bequest of Ilse Bing Wolff, 1998 (2003.151.12)
    © Estate of Ilse Bing, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Der Fleck auf dem Spiegel, den der Atemhauch schafft
    1977
    Dieter Appelt (German)
    Gelatin silver print
    Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.482)
    © Dieter Appelt
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Mein Liebesbangen! (My Heartache!)
    ca. 1910
    Unknown Artist (German)
    Gelatin silver print
    Funds from various donors, 2010 (2010.293)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight
    1882–83
    Georges Seurat (French)
    Conté crayon
    Gift of Alexander and Grégoire Tarnopol, 1976 (1976.243)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Factory Smoke
    1877–79
    Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (French)
    Black ink printed on laid paper (monotype)
    The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1982 (1982.1025)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    The Hand of Man
    1902, printed 1920s
    Alfred Stieglitz (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.459)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    [Smoke Stack]
    1920s–30s
    William Rittase (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.201)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    The Smoker—The Match—The Cigarette
    1911
    Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian)
    Gelatin silver print
    Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005 (2005.100.247)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    The Smokers
    probably ca. 1636
    Adriaen Brouwer (Flemish)
    Oil on wood
    The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.21)
    On view: Gallery 633
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Shahnama (The Book of Kings)
    ca. 1430–40
    Abu'l Qasim Firdausi
    India
    Ink, colors, and gold on paper
    The Grinnell Collection, Bequest of William Milne Grinnell, 1920 (20.120.248)
    On view: Gallery 463
    Islamic ArtSecond Floor
    [Smoke] From the Series "My Ghost"
    1999
    Adam Fuss (English)
    Gelatin silver print
    Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000 (2000.330)
    © Adam Fuss
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor

    © 2011 The Metropolitan Museum of Art