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Absinthe And Art

Absinthe was featured prominently by most artists of the Belle Époque. In the early works of Pablo Picasso, one of the most important in the so called "Blue Period" is a painting from 1901 titled "Woman Drinking Absinthe" that shows a woman dressed in blue with elongated hands and fingers, sitting at the corner of a table in a Parisian cafe with a glass of Absinthe in front her. Picasso declared once that his earliest cubist works were inspired by Absinthe, including one named "Bottle of Pernod and Glass" painted in 1912, directly based on the Pernod publicity posters designed by Maire, picturing a bottle of Absinthe, a glass, and a folded newspaper.

The ubiquitous print advertising hung by Pernod Fills in almost every bar and cafe in France was painted by Charles Maire. Unusually, the chromolithograph was backed on to canvas, and then varnished, giving it the appearance of an original oil technique, enhanced by the custom gilt-wood frame. Both Picasso and Braque were inspired by Maire cartons, as the basis of some of the very earliest Cubist paintings including "Bouteille de Pernod et verre", a painting from 1912.

In 1959, during a press interview with the French poet and artist Jean Cocteau, he talked about his friendship with Picasso, and his visits to the artist's atelier. He described how a copy of Maire's Pernod Fills chromolithograph was hung in Picasso's studio during the time he was creating his early cubist masterpieces, and how Picasso gave it to him as a souvenir. This is not the only Absinthe item that acted as inspiration for the painter.

Which is considered Picasso's greatest Absinthe cubist masterpiece from 1914 is a sculpture named "Verre d'Absinthe" (Absinthe Glass), a painted bronze in an edition of six, all of which were painted differently. Such sculpture has a stable, glass like base, but an opened out, sliced up body. On the top rests a real Absinthe spoon and a painted bronze sugar cube.

The French poet Paul Verlaine was another notorious drinker who states his jobs inspired were by Absinthe... but not only the artistic works. Verlaine's mother kept the fetuses of her three earlier, miscarried pregnancies preserved in jars in the pantry and one day Verlaine attacked his mother and then destroyed the jars during an Absinthe fit. It is known that Verlaine began drinking as a teenager, and was already an alcoholic before he found Absinthe.

His disastrous on-again, off-again relationship with Arthur Rimbaud aggravated both, his alcoholism and his mental instability that culminated in a 5 year prison sentence for a murder attempt. While in prison he had sworn off Absinthe, and for several years after his release drank only beer and worked steadily at his poetry, returning to drink heavily again in the decade of 1890's. By that time, he had become a pathetic well known figure in the Latin Quarter, usually sitting in a corner at the Cafe Francois, on La Procope, or at the Boulevard Saint-Michel, nursing Absinthe after Absinthe.

American writer Ernest Hemingway was a heavy drinker, and a passionate lover of Absinthe, which he continued drinking in Spain and Cuba, after it was banned in France. His most notable mention of Absinthe can be found in his Spanish Civil War novel, "For Whom The Bell Tolls". In that story the hero is an American guerrilla leader on a mission to blow up a bridge, and one of his few comforts is Absinthe, called "the liquid alchemy" which can replace everything else and irresistibly recalls the better life he had known in Paris.

It would be impossible to summarize in such a brief space all the artists and works which, one way or another, featured Absinthe as sources of inspiration. But, as you can tell Absinthe was used as an inspiration in the life of many famous poets and artists throughout time.