Early Airbrush Stigma

This amusing illustration for a paper advertisement is by William Addison Dwiggins. It pokes fun at airbrush artists of the time. It depicts of a weary artist, slouched in an armchair, using an airbrush to create a painting while a servant operates the hand-pump compressor and a monkey holds up a stencil for him. Many artists looked down their nose at those who used airbrushes and especially stencils. There was resistance to this new “machine” being intermingled into art and illustration. This stigma somewhat still exists today and most fine art schools still do not teach airbrushing.

The compressor depicted is actually somewhat realistic in that back then compressors for an airbrush were hand pump as were early vacuum cleaners.


“The New Ideas in Illustration” advertisement by S.D. Warren & Co. (Print, vol. V, no. 4, 1915). Illustration and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins (1914)
The complete airbrush apparatus with air pump and connections. Detail from The Manufacturer and Builder vol. XXII, no. 5 (May 1890), p. 98

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