|The Absinthe Drinker, 1901, Victor Oliva|
|Victor Oliva Self-portrait, 1898|
|This painting by Toulouse-Lautrec is so different in style as compared to his |
other works some critics contend it was painted under the influence of absinthe.
|Vincent van Gogh Drinking Absinthe,|
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
|Glass of Absinthe and a Carafe, 1884, Vincent, van Gogh|
|Toulouse-Lautrec (left) and fellow poster |
artist, Lucien Metivet, drinking absinthe, 1895.
So, what, exactly, is absinthe? It's a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage, (90–148 U.S. proof) having an anise (licorice) flavor derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium ("grand wormwood"), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs too numerous to mention. Needless to say, it's seldom consumed full strength, though plenty potent even in diluted form. Perhaps more important than what's in it is what absinthe does. The British author, Oscar Wilde, obviously no stranger to the stuff himself, may have summed it up best:
The first stage is like ordinary drinking; the second [is] when you begin to see cruel and monstrous things. But if you can persevere, you will enter in upon the third stage where your see things that you want to see.” --Oscar Wilde
|An Art Nouveau ad for absinthe, ca.1900.|
|The Absinthe Drinker, |
1858-59, Edouard Manet.
However, despite their intimate familiarity with "the green fairy," several artists were directly or indirectly responsible for its eventual prohibition. Perhaps the first was Edouard Manet, who, in 1858-59 painted a work he called The Absinthe Drinker (right). It was originally simply a painting (a portrait, actually) of a familiar drunk named Collardet, who used to hang around outside the Louvre. He was quite familiar to virtually every artist in Paris. (The glass of absinthe and the bottle on the ground were added sometime later.) Considered to be one of his first major works, Manet submitted it to the Salon jury of 1859 where it received only one vote for acceptance, that of Eugene Delacroix. Although the subject was probably considered abhorrent, it was likely the crude manner in which it was painted that "turned off" the jury. "Look, you can see his brushstrokes!"
|The Absinthe Drinker, 1876,|
Had Manet's Absinthe Drinker been accepted, it would have, no doubt, caused an uproar. That distinction, however, was saved for Edgar Degas' 1876 Absinthe Drinker nearly twenty years later. Unlike Manet's long-forgotten early effort, Degas' Absinthe Drinker was, first of all a woman and in fact, a well-known actress, Ellen Andrée, accompanied by a rather scruffy man named, Marcellin Desboutin, an artist friend of Degas. The dislike for the work was instantaneous, both broad and deep, one critic call it, "The perfection of ugliness… The color is as repulsive as the figures; a brutal, sensual-looking French workman and a sickly looking grisette; a most unlovely couple.” The word "whore" was used quite often by other critics. It was a look at the underbelly of Parisian nightlife no one, least of all art critics, who themselves, enjoyed it, wanted to see exposed. Nonetheless, Degas' painting could be said to have started the outrage and stirred negative sentiment, not just insofar as art was concerned, but against the "drug" itself. The painting finally sold in London in 1892 to boos and hisses. Today it hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris.
|Absinthe, 1902, |
|La Muse Verte, 1895, |
|Absinth, 1901, Pablo Picasso.|
|The Absinthe Drinker, |
Portrait of Angel Fernandez
de Soto, 1903, Pablo Picasso.
|I couldn't resist adding this modern-day|
ad for Bourgeois (middle class) Absinthe.
Must have made for some wild catnaps.