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Absinthe, Oil on Canvas, 1876
French Artist, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), said that "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
When looking at the painting, this is what I saw. Others, especially from that time period saw something entirely different.
She looks unhappy, sitting with her husband, her drink before her. Notice that her drink is cloudy which identifies it as absinthe. Such a sad face Degas painted. Her husband is paying no attention to her as he watches others around the room. Degas painted her so delicately, while the husband is roughly put together, hat askew, untied tie, hair not combed. Perhaps he just slammed his hat on his head while she begged to go out.
This is my version of the painting. In reality, the models were Ellen Andree, an actress, and Marcellin Desboutin, a painter and print-maker. Edgar Degas sketched his ideas while viewing his subjects, but finished his paintings in his studio.
When this painting was first exhibited, it was called ugly, disgusting, and the persons depicted to be degraded and uncouth. Degas even had to publicly state that the two models were not alcoholics as this was also a criticism. Social conflict, public morals, so many different views of what the painter had in mind, when in reality perhaps, the two models had interesting faces and Degas chose to paint them in a cafe setting.
Absinthe, a dark green liquor, originally was made from worm-wood, herbs and spices. In a stylized ceremony, water is added drop by drop through a sugar cube which is suspended on a slotted spoon. It was called "The Green Fairy" as some of the ingredients caused hallucinations in the past. You can purchase it in specialized liquor stores and order Absinthe in some restaurants and bars.
What do you see in this painting?