Cultural references to absinthe  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The legacy of absinthe as a mysterious, addictive, and mind-altering drink continues to this day. Though its psychoactive effects and chemical makeup are contested, its cultural impact is not. Absinthe has played a notable role in the fine art movements of Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Surrealism, Modernism, Cubism... and in the corresponding literary movements. The legendary drink has more recently appeared in movies, video, television, music, and contemporary literature. The modern absinthe revival has had a notable effect on its portrayal. It is often shown as an unnaturally glowing green liquid demonstrating the influence of contemporary marketing efforts.

Contents

Arts and literature

Arts

Absinthe has a widely documented role in 19th century visual art and was frequently the subject of many genre paintings and still lifes of the day.

  • Edgar Degas' painting L'Absinthe (1876) portrayed grim absinthe drinkers in a cafe. Degas himself never called the painting "L'Absinthe"; it was either his art dealer or a later owner who gave it the name. Years later, it set off a flurry in the London art world, and the grim realism of "L'Absinthe" (a theme popular with bohemian artists) was perceived by London art critics as a lesson against alcohol and the French in general.
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was notorious for his consumption of the green muse. He often painted impressionistic scenes of the brothels and night spots of 19th century Montmartre. Lautrec was even known to carry a hollow cane filled with absinthe during long nights out in Paris. An example of Lautrec's work featuring absinthe would be the painting Monsieur Boileau au café.
  • Vincent Van Gogh was anything but a man of moderation. He drank ferocious quantities of absinthe while creating his signature painting style. His ear removing episode is often attributed to over consumption of absinthe as is his liberal use of the color yellow.
  • Picasso depicted absinthe in different media, including the paintings "Woman Drinking Absinthe" (1901) and "Bottle of Pernod and Glass" (1912), and the sculpture "Absinthe Glass" (1914).
  • Paul Gauguin is known for consuming large quantities of absinthe.

Literature

As prominent as absinthe's influence on visual art was, it is perhaps even more noteworthy in the context of 19th century literature. Below is a short list of important authors who credited a portion of their literary success to the drink.

  • Oscar Wilde was an avid absinthe consumer and often wrote about the drink in connection with the creative process. Oscar Wilde has been quoted as saying, "What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?" and "After the first glass [of absinthe] you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."
  • Baudelaire was an avid absinthe drinker. Though he never wrote specifically about absinthe he did reference it in his famous poem "get drunk".
  • Paul Marie Verlaine was a famous Parisian poet of the Bohemian style. Though he wrote extensively about the benefits absinthe in his early years, he later claimed to have consorted with prostitutes and men while drinking it, and blamed the beverage for his downfalls. Even when he was on his deathbed, his friends were said to be hiding bottles for him under his pillow.
  • Arthur Rimbaud was a young Parisian poet who was notably involved in a homosexual relationship with Paul Verlaine. They famously drank large quantity's of absinthe together. Their relationship ended when Rimbaud was shot in the hand by Verlaine, who was then sentenced to prison. Later in life Rimbaud quit drinking absinthe and writing poetry and instead became involved in military exploits and gun running. He is still regarded as one of France's greatest poets.
  • Ernest Dowson was an important English poet who notable wrote a poem dedicated to absinthe called "Absinthia Taetra".
  • Guy de Maupassant was a naturalistic French author. He is generally considered one of the greatest French short story writers. In one famous work of prose "A Queer Night in Paris" he describes the smells and sensations of absinthe in the streets of Paris and makes an overt reference to "the hour to take absinthe".
  • Alfred Jarry is notably the author of the French absurdist play, Ubu Roi. Jarry claimed to use absinthe to "fuse together the dream and reality, art and lifestyle". <ref name="autogenerated1"/> The drink was purported by the author to be a key part of his creative process.

Contemporary literature

  • Absinthe figures heavily into the plot of The Basic Eight, a 1999 novel by Daniel Handler, which features Bohemian characters of which are drawn to absinthe by its dangerous history.
  • Gemma Doyle, the main character of Libba Bray's 2007 sequel Rebel Angels (set in 1895) drinks Absinthe with her friends at a Christmas ball, and experiences hallucinatory effects.
  • The characters in Poppy Z. Brite's short story, His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood discover a crate of absinthe, the consumption of which forms the backdrop against which their transgressive antics occur. The short story can be found in Swamp Foetus. Characters in her book Lost Souls also drink absinthe.
  • An absinthe hallucination may or may not have inspired a murder in The Second Glass of Absinthe, a 2003 mystery novel by Michelle Black, set in 1880 Leadville, Colorado.

Music

  • Barbara (1930-1997) the popular French female singer wrote and composed, with Frédéric Botton, and sang l'Absinthe, a song published in her 12th album "La Fleur d'amour" (1972). This song is a love song, a bit sad and nostagic -sadness is Barbara's trademark-, where the singer explains to a lover that drinking absinthe helps at last to feel in love, to render love joyful, just like it helped Rimbaud and Verlaine to write their poetry (a recurrent comparison, all along the song).
  • On Minus The Bear's 2002 debut album, Highly Refined Pirates, there is a track entitled "Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse". It is one of their most popular tracks among fans.
  • Cradle Of Filth has a song entitled "Absinthe with Faust" on their album Nymphetamine.
  • Mayer Hawthorne has a song entitled "Green Eyed Love" on his first album "A Strange Arrangement". Although the lyrics of the song seem to reflect on his relationship with a green-eyed girl, the music video puts the lyrics in a different light, where we can see Mayer Hawthorne unconventionally preparing a glass of absinthe and suffering from hallucinations afterwards.
  • Kasabian recorded a song referred to and titled "La Fee Verte" on their fourth studio album Velociraptor!.

Film

  • The 2001 film entitled Moulin Rouge! contains a scene prominently featuring Absinthe and the "green fairy", a hallucination supposedly caused by the drink (and, in this film's case, played by pop star Kylie Minogue and voiced by Ozzy Osbourne.)
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) featured absinthe as a key ingredient in Count Dracula's seduction of Mina Harker. The scene opens with the line "Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the soul. The green fairy who lives in the absinthe wants your soul, but you are safe with me".
  • In the 2004 film EuroTrip, characters Scott, Cooper, and Jamie drink absinthe while in a club. The drink is shown glowing an electric green, and its consumption causes hallucinations in some of these characters - one of which is a little green fairy (played by Steve Hytner).
  • In the 2007 film Blood and Chocolate, Gabriel and several other Loup Garou consume absinthe in the bohemian manner at a popular Romanian bar that their pack frequents.
  • The 2009 film Dorian Gray (2009 film) a glass of Absinthe with an Absinthe Spoon & a sugar cube on top of the spoon lies on the table while Dorian is having his painting done.
  • The 2010 film Get Him to the Greek features a scene where the main character Aaron Green gets highly intoxicated on 20th Century absinthe.
  • In the Swiss-German film Sennentuntschi (2010), the three farmers used absinthe to imagine a straw made sex doll come to life, which is based on real Alpine traditions.
  • Featured in the video for Dance With Me by Roger Shah.

Miscellaneous

  • Washington D.C.-based Don and Mike Show has a biannual tradition of doing an entire four-hour show while drinking absinthe, complete with audience participation, interviews, and a news segment.
  • In the visual novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the absinthe is Kinzo's preferred drink. It was implied that it may have drove him to madness due to its alleged hallucinogenic properties.
  • In the PC game Phantasmagoria, heroine Adrienne Delaney discovers a bottle of absinthe in the wet bar of the mansion she and her husband came to occupy. As the game progresses, she will periodically see its amount draining while her husband simultaneously becomes more and more odd, implying he has been the one drinking it.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cultural references to absinthe" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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