L’Absinthe (English: The Absinthe Drinker or Glass of Absinthe) is a painting by Edgar Degas. Its original title was Dans un Café. Other early titles were A sketch of a French Café and Figures at Café, but when exhibited in London in 1893, the title was finally changed to L’Absinthe, the name by which the picture is known today. It is in the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
The work portrays two figures, a woman and man, who sit at the center and right, respectively. The man, wearing a hat, looks to the right, off the canvas, while the woman, dressed more formally, and wearing a hat, stares vacantly downward. Source [WikiPedia]
- It has been known by several names – When it was first exhibited in the Third Annual Winter Exhibition in Brighton, it was called A Sketch in a French Cafe. It’s also been called Figures at Cafe and In a Cafe (a title the Musée d’Orsay still prefers). Later, The Absinthe Drinkers and Glass of Absinthe became popular alternatives.
- Its setting was a popular artist hangout – The restaurant depicted in L’Absinthe has been identified as Paris’s Café de la Nouvelle Athènes. It was a “hotbed of intellectual bohemians” where Impressionist painters like Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat were known to roam.
- It was seen as anti-absinthe propaganda – In the late 19th century, absinthe was growing in popularity. But public sentiment shifted against the high-proof liquor, spurring its ban in Franceas well as in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary by 1915. Because Degas’s painting depicted a sullen woman with the identifiable beverage before her, anti-absinthe advocates embraced L’Absinthe as an illustration of the isolation and misery the spirit could bring.
- L’abstinthe’s lady was a famous impressionist muse – French ingénue Ellen Andrée worked in Naturalist theater when she wasn’t posing for the likes of Degas, Édouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Besides L’Absinthe, Andrée can be spotted in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, Manet’s The Plum, and Henri Gervex’s Rolla
- Critics hated the piece with a passion – Whatever they thought of the models, most critics sneered at this snapshot-like painting of unhappy people. Upon its debut in 1876, the critics were so vocal in their loathing of L’Absinthe that the piece was shunted away from the public eye for 16 years. In 1892, it was dusted off and presented once more. This time, the painting drew a shower of boos, which would be echoed the following year when it traveled to England.
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