The Many Famous Artists Who Have Been Inspired By Absinthe

Absinthe's Long and Colorful History

Absinthe is having a revival period, and people are beginning to appreciate it for what it is: a beautiful, delicious, complex spirit. But artists have long understood its unique qualities.

I was recently out of art school at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where I studied Photography and Art History, when I had my first sip of Absinthe.

That experience ignited such curiosity in me. So much so that I acquired Barnaby Conrad's Absinthe: History in a Bottle and fell down a rabbit hole about art history.

I know what attracts me to Absinthe, but I've often wondered what made Absinthe the drink of choice for the Parisian Boheme in the belle epoque. Perhaps it's because there's something romantic about Absinthe. Artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec enjoyed it and made it the subject in some of their artworks.

When I travel, I love going to museums. In 2016 I traveled to Europe, where I spent hours in art museums observing beauty and looking for references to Absinthe in any of the artworks. I visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Now here was a true absinthe fan! Sculpted absinthe spoons, paintings, and more!

I spent hours at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. During my visit, I kept my eye out for any reference of Absinthe influencing his tragic ear incident. As it turns out, the Absinthe that Van Gogh was so fond of had absolutely nothing to do with his self-mutilation.

Another absinthe rumor involves Edgar Allen Poe. It was rumored that he rotted his brain with Absinthe, but it turns out that Poe did not even have access to Absinthe!

La fée verte, or "the green fairy," is one of the most misunderstood spirits, which I find makes it endlessly fascinating!

In the 1870s, France experienced an insect infestation called phylloxera, that destroyed vineyards across the country. This near wipeout made wine very expensive, which led to Absinthe being a friendly and price-worthy alternative. 

It became so popular among artists, authors, and poets that it soon became a symbol of creativity, with Happy hour called l'heure verte, or the Green Hour. These artists often featured Absinthe in their creative works.

Here are some of the most famous artists and their depictions of Absinthe. Why not pour yourself a glass of the green fairy and enjoy your own Green Hour as you peruse this dive into the aesthetic of absinthe? Scroll to the end to see a more modern absinthe painting. The original is at the fabulous Bix Restaurant in San Francisco.

 

The Many Famous Artists Who Have Been Inspired by Absinthe  

Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883)
The Absinthe Drinker, 1859, Oil on canvas

 

Edgar Degas (French 1834-1917)
L’Absinthe, 1875–6, Oil on canvas

 

Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
Cafe Table w/ Absinthe ​​Paris, February-March 1887, Oil on canvas 

 

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec  (French 1864–1901)
Portrait of Vincent van Gogh 1887, Chalk on paper

 

Edvard Munch Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Absinthe Drinkers 1890, Oil on canvas

  

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec  (French 1864–1901)
Monsieur Boileau at the Cafe, 1893, Oil and tempera with charcoal on millboard

  

Albert Maignan (French, 1845-1908)
The Green Muse, 1895, Oil on canvas

 

Viktor Oliva (Czech 1861 – 1928)
The Absinthe Drinker 1901, Oil on canvas

 

 

 

Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)
The Absinthe Drinker, 1901 Oil on canvas

 

Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)
Absinthe Drinkers, 1908, Oil on canvas

  

Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)
The Glass of Absinthe, 1911, Oil on canvas

 

Mark Stock (American 1951-2014)
The Butler's in Love - Absinthe, 1989, Oil on canvas

 

 

 

 

 


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