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Absinthe In Art, The Torrid Influence Of Absinthe

It has been labeled as mind altering, and even been the blame of murder back in 1905. It’s a strong liquor and some even mark it as a perilous drug. It’s called Absinthe, the Green Fairy.

Absinthe started out as a medicinal tonic invented by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire to administer to his patients. The concoction was made by distilling alcohol similar to moonshine in a plethora of herbs. Some of the herbs commonly used were anise, fennel, Angelica, Hyssop, Licorice, and peppermint, but the most notorious of them all was the grand wormwood. Wormwood was the herb that caused Absinthe it’s largest controversy due to the thujone content. Thujone is a terpene found in wormwood and is blamed for absinthe’s secondary effects, which were hallucinations, convulsions and madness. All unfounded might I add.

Absinthe has a very sordid history due to the prohibitionists of France during the 1800′s. It also has a huge presence in art over the years. Many of the artists, poets and writers living or visiting Paris and living in London in the late 1800′s were absinthe drinkers. With a over 21,000,000 liters annual consumption, absinthe was a very well loved drink among the aristocrats down to the poorest working man.

Absinthe was the subject of many art works by very well-known artists over the years, but not always correlating to their personal consumption. Jean Francois Rafaelli was a heavy drinker of absinthe, and was used as a theme in many of his paintings. Henri de Toulouse Lautrec was also a heavy drinker of absinthe but devoted very few of his works to the Green Goddess.

Some people claimed that Absinthe Liquor was an aphrodisiac, Ernest Christopher Dowson claimed in his writings that “Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder”. To some artists of the period, hallucinations caused by the Green Fairy claimed to be mind stimulating and essential to produce the works of art they made.

Two of the most well-known paintings with Absinthe Alcohol being the subject matter is “At the cafe by Paul Gauguin and “The Absinthe Drinker” by Pablo Picasso. Both of the paintings were similar and featured a blue seltzer water siphon near glasses of absinthe.

Other notable artists associated with Absinthe liquor:

Ernest Hemingway was probably one of the most recent artists who partook of Absinthe Green Fairy. Hemingway drank absinthe way after it was banned in most parts of the world. Some works he did that mentioned of Absinthe was Death In The Afternoon and For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Arthur Rimbaud was a poet arriving in Paris at the young age of sixteen, he fell in like with Paul Verlaine and the two would drink absinthe together and play cruel games with each other. After a falling out with Verlaine he joined the Dutch army and became a gun runner. Although he gave up poetry early he still became known as one of France’s greatest poets.

Alfred Jarry was well-known for his scandalous play Ubu Roi. He was known to drink absinthe straight and was very eccentric. He is most well-known for making the monstrous character Pere Ubu, a grotesquerie who drove audiences to rage. Jarry admitted using absinthe to fuse together the tale.

Not all Victorian artists were fans of absinthe. Novelist Marie Corelli was so concerned about the growing number of absinthe drinkers in England and Europe that she wrote a novel on the subject entitled Wormwood, published in 1890. The main character, Gaston Beauvois, is addicted to absinthe, and frequently refers to the drink as the “fairy with the green eyes.” He states, “Let me be mad . . . mad with the madness of absinthe, the wildest most luxurious madness in the world.”

Banned at the beginning of the 20th century in the West, absinthe is once again available in many European countries as well as Fantastic Britain, Canada and even Israel. Some are attracted to it by its threat of danger but more seem to find it appealing because of its association with the bohemians of the early to mid 20th century, and still others find romance in it because Manet, Degas, Picasso all painted pictures of people sipping it. Celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Eminem and Marilyn Manson praise it and only further the interest in the Absinthe drink.

Charles Hamel is an online marketer and entrepreneur who specializes in writing and web design. His new website about

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