They are seated next to each other in a Parisian cafe, although neither are paying any attention to each other. Which represents the social isolation during this time of rapid growth in Paris. The man is slouched forward with his elbows resting on the table smoking his pipe. He looks tired as he stares at something in the distance. The woman next to him is the focus of this painting. She is nicely dressed and well kept. She is staring vacantly downward with drooping features and a general air of desolation.
In rant of her is her green absinthe drink that almost appears to be glowing. When Edgar Degas first premiered L Absinthe to the French salons it was rejected immediately, even at other showings it was not very well liked at all. Many English critics considered it degrading and lacking in morals. The reason this was the general consensus was because the absinthe. Not the drink itself, but the woman drinking it. The idea of a woman of society partaking in this drink caused hysteria. It challenged the established view of Oman and their place in society.
Although it was actually quite common to see a man, or woman, drowning their sorrows in a cup Of absinthe, it was not considered to be art. One might not think that a drink could so greatly influence society, but absinthe was a huge influence on art and society in sass’s Paris. Absinthe goes by many names; “La Fee Vertex (the green fairy), ‘the green muse”, “the green goddess” and “the queen of poisons”. It was the drink of the Bohemia. The Green Fairy was a symbol of change and transformation in Paris.
This being said, not all change was for the better. The drink was known for it addictive and psychoactive qualities. It was responsible for the increased number of citizens being sent to asylums. Many artists had severe absinthe addictions. One of the worst was Charles Baudelaire. In 1862, he wrote in his journal, “l have cultivated my hysteria with delight and terror. Now I suffer continually from vertigo, and today, 23 of January 1 862, I have received a singular warning, I have felt the wind of the wing of madness pass over me. “
But it also played a part in woman’s emaciation in France and the creation of art and poetry. It was romanticizes and captured in artwork and writings by countless artists, playwrights and authors. It helped to advance art to become more modern and contributed to Impressionism. Impressionism was an art movement rose to popularity in the last quarter of the 19th century. Absinthe was a contributor along with anti-establishment movements, foreign/Asian influences and a desire to paint modern life instead of academic subjects of history and mythology.