If you’re of a certain age, you’ll recall
picture postcards of a group of pipe-smoking dogs playing poker. You
may not know that the artist was an American named C. M. Coolidge
nor that his series of “Dogs Playing Poker” paintings
were originally commissioned to adorn cigar boxes. I think I was six
or seven when I first saw one—I won’t say it planted the
seeds of pipemanship at such a tender age, but who knows?
There’s another great piece of pipe-smoking art that has been
knocking about in various places over the years that no one seems
to know much about, a story without words of two extremely competitive
pipemen, each out to best the other in the magnitude and grandeur
of their smoking devices. You may even have seen it in recent publications
of a certain pipe-affiliated press.
I first saw the cartoon five or six years ago, a tiny little squib
of a reproduction on the internet, and thought it was hysterical.
As you can just see in the reproduction, it captures the multi-faceted
nature of our hobby at so many levels: on one level as a battle of
the briars—and who has not felt the sting of some other, more
deeply-pocketed pipe collector’s prizes? Or on the level of
the increasing size of pipes themselves in recent years—not
that there haven’t always been magnums and house pipes around,
but the artisan movement that began with the freehands of the 1970s
has established larger pipes with ever-larger chambers as something
of a norm. And then there’s the reading of the cartoon as a
cautionary tale against the dangers of P.A.D., which I and so many
others have so gladly suffered and so vainly striven against.
In an idle moment and with a magnifying glass, I finally began trying
to decipher who the artist of this whimsical paean to pipe smoking
was from the all-but-illegible signature, going through a number of
vowel-consonant combinations until at last I hit on “Bateman.”
Had I been born on the other side of the pond just a generation or
two earlier, doubtless I would have known the work of H. M. Bateman,
the modern master of British cartooning, without a second glance.
But such are the vagaries of time and a sorry education that I didn’t.
I was just smart enough, however, to get in contact with the granddaughter
of H. M. Bateman, Lucy Willis, who had, in January of 2011, just assumed
the task of running her grandfather’s estate. She did indeed
know the cartoon I was talking about, “No Briar Without A Thorn,”
and promised to let me know when she ran across it in cataloguing
his works. There the matter dropped for over a year. In March of 2012,
Lucy wrote me out of the blue to say that she had found the original
and was I still interested in obtaining a print of it? How many ways
can you say “THANK YOU, YES!!”? So it is with great pleasure
that I have the honor of introducing formally to the pipe-smoking
fraternity the authorized reproduction of Bateman’s work. He
was, as Lucy writes, “a devoted pipe smoker” all his life,
and it shows. Only one of the briar brotherhood could know us so well
with all our foibles and pride, whimsy and folly.
The print is available from HM Bateman Designs Ltd at www.hmbateman.com
in two sizes: A4 size 21cm x 30 cm (approx. 8 1⁄4 " x 12”)
for £12 or A3 size 30 cm x 38cm (approx. 12" x 15 1⁄2
“) for £20.00. Shipping & Handling is £6, and
payment can be made through PayPal. The print, on art stock paper,
is mailed rolled in a tube, and it’s a pip. Whether you use
it to alleviate your P.A.D. or just add a dose of levity to your daily
life, think about adding this essential icon of the smoking life to
your man cave, study, shop, pipe den, or wherever you do your smoking.
Oh, and if you happen to live in London, don’t miss “The
Man Who Went Mad on Paper,” the first major retrospective of
Bateman’s work, at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell St.,
London, until July 22nd. More information can be found at www.cartoonmuseum.org.
You might also check out www.hmbateman.com—I understand there’s
an extensive catalog of his work now available.