Looking at Absinthe Art and the “Green Fairy”


“la fée verte” (the green fairy)

Apple-Touch-IconAWhile looking in to an an incoming e-mail yesterday and the eventual development of a post that partially touched New Orleans Absinthe makers, I became side tracked with reading about Absinthe and the “la fée verte” or Green Fairy. Many of the pieces of art I looked at were represented by an image of  la fée verte. The Green Fairy is the female embodiment of the enticing, oft-mistrusted green elixir. 


Absinthe arose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th- and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers. Owing in part to its association with bohemian culture, the consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists. Ernest Hemingway, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie and Alfred Jarry were all known absinthe drinkers. [Wikipedia]


Absinthe Spoons

I was really impressed with the artwork on many of the large lithographic advertising pieces of the late 19th century. This was at the height of the absinthe boom. Some of the greatest poster artists of the period – Cappiello, Privat-Livemont, Lefevre, Tamagno – created famous images to advertise the absinthe grand marques. [oxygenee].

Of equal interest were the artists who were using absinthe in their subject matter in their paintings. Artist such as Viktor Oliva, Albert Maignan, Pablo Picasso, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas to name a few. Examples are represented below.

Please enjoy the art. Personally I feel a little bit more educated about absinthe this week. I definitely want to go to the oldest bar in downtown Houston, “La Carafe”, on one of my creative jaunts and order a glass of absinthe. I will then pull out my journal or iPad and get creative or bohemian. Or try at least.


Read: The New Orleans Absinthe Makers

Visit: The Virtual Absinthe Museum

A B S I N T H E    G A L L E R Y


An unrecorded lithographic poster for Rosinette, Absinthe Rosé
Oxygénée, (37″ x 50″), printed by Camis around 1900. – Oxygenee.com


“The Absinthe Drinker” by Viktor Oliva


Felix Pernod Poster


Albert Maignan’s painting of “Green Muse” (1895) shows a poet succumbing to absinthe’s mind-altering effects. (Credit: Courtesy of the Musée de Picardie, Amiens)


“ASBSINTHE la Fee Verte” Poster


“The Absinthe Drinker” – 1901 – Pablo Picasso


A striking 1895 2 sheet poster showing Absinthe Mugnier’s famous desert legionnaireby Lucien Lefèvre, a pupil of Chéret. – Oxygenee.com


“The absinthe drinker” – 1850, Paris, France – Edouard Manet


One of the most iconic art nouveau images of all, this 1896 image for Absinthe Robette by the Belgian posterist Privat-Livemount has spawned a million reproductions. – Oxygenee.com


“The Absinthe Drinker Au Café (l’Absinthe)” – Edgar Degas – The two figures in this painting are Ellen Andree, a noted French Actress, and Marcellin Desboutin, an artist and noted bohemian personality, sitting at the Café de la Nouvelle-Athenes, in Paris, France. In front of the woman sits a glass of the greenish colored liquid, Absinthe. It was first exhibited in 1872, where it was criticized as ugly and disgusting, and a later exhibition in 1892 it was removed from the show. It was shown a year later inn England, where it sparked controversy. The woman in the painting was derided as a whore and the entire image was seen as a blow to morality and the degradation of society due to absinthe.


The often reproduced Absinthe Blanqui poster quintessential art-nouveau image, heavily influenced by the then fashionable vogue for orientalism. The original is rare, with only three surviving copies recorded. – Oxygenee.com


Poster for J. Edouard Pernot Absinthe


One of the most spectacular and important of all absinthe posters, this famous image by Gantner laments the prohibition of absinthe in France in 1915. In the centre, trampling the mortally wounded Green Fairy, is Raymond Poincaré, the arch-prohibitionist President of the French Republic, while in the background French troops are shown engaged in the first terrible battles of the 14-18 war. The white ribbon at the bottom “Les Habitués d’…” is left blank, to allow the name of the bar or café that originally purchased the poster to be added. A really tremendous rarity: this poster is missing from the collections of both the absinthe museums in France, and there are in total only 4 known examples. – oxygenee.com


Absinthe Ducros Fils Poster – All Posters

Absinthe Borgeois

Poster for Absinthe Bourgeois – image Bruce Silva

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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