Saturday, January 7, 2012

"L'Absinthe du Beav"

Backstory beneath the fold...

A couple years back I volunteered to participate in a fundraiser for the Georgeson Botannical Garden Society. They held a formal Victorian-themed Tea Party (sans any political protesters present to take our country back... at least to the 1800's). I played the part of a painting poseur complete with easel, beret and basket of artisan bread and cheese by my side. Being immersed in a sea of parasols and hoop skirts as they floating about the grounds to the strains of a string quartet was quite the surreal experience.

I did get to learn about both absinthe and Degas' original painting "L’Absinthe" which this panel is a flagrant hack homage to: 
“In its first showing in 1876 it was panned by critics, who called it ugly and disgusting. It was put into storage until an 1892 exhibit where it was booed off the easel. It was shown again in 1893 in England … there, it sparked controversy. The persons represented in the painting were considered by English critics to be shockingly degraded and uncouth. Many regarded the painting as a blow to morality…” (Wikipedia)
This also brings to mind another, equally monumental body of work in art history that I recently learned some interesting trivia about. Monet’s iconic “Water Lilies” series was created in the midst of the artist losing his vision due to cataracts, which may partially account for the visionary nature of his works, and perhaps be the reason behind his destroying many of the paintings upon review with newly restored vision...
"Many accounts speak of Monet destroying incomplete abortive paintings; with the London series and the Water Lilies of 1903-1909 the destructions seem to have been very extensive. In 1907, when deferring his exhibition of Water Lilies, he told Durand-Ruel that he had destroyed 'at least thirty of them, to my great satisfaction'."
Incidentally, he was initially known for his caricatures, but an art dealer "encouraged Claude not to waste his talent with cartoons ... recommend(ing) landscapes instead." Rats.

Neurological and opthalmological interpretations of modern art is always interesting, whether the creator literally possessed a vision that transcended reality, used too much absinthe, or was going insane from syphilis. I always try and make a point to students that while aspiring to genius, it doesn't necessarily mean they have to use drugs and contract venereal diseases in their bid for immortality. In fact, the discipline of getting up in time for their 8am class when it's dark and forty-below-zero will entirely suffice.

"Shockingly Degraded and Uncouth"


  1. Given the dire predictions since before the dawn of history that each generation's art is ushering in the progressive downfall of humanity, and the current state of the world showing a rather impressive level of degradation, perhaps it's true. Art really does pave the way for decadence and doom. If you choose instead to view much of what the prudish call degradation as a laudable level of tolerance for diversity, things are getting better in some ways, but distinctly worse in others. For whatever reason, humanity seems to be its only friend and its own worst enemy. This is only appropriate I suppose. Our enterprises are only the pointless diversions of a completely unnecessary species.

  2. Now that would make a great cartoon...