Today on the Muscleheaded Blog:
Discover the beautiful art of the late 19th and early 20th century,
— as expressed in Art Nouveau style posters advertising Absinthe.
One of my collections revolve around late 19th century, early 20th century Absinthe adverts.
They were originally used as street bills, posters, or magazine ads,
to promote a particular brand of Absinthe,
produced mostly in France and Switzerland.
Absinthe is a distilled herbal liquor with a high alcohol content,
and a rather Bohemian reputation,
popular with turn of the century artists like:
Van Gogh, Degas, and Oscar Wilde.
It has an herbal, anise flavor,
and it’s unique aroma/taste comes from the use of wormwood (artemesia absinthium) in it’s recipe.
Toulouse-Lautrec supposedly drew some of his best work in trade for the stuff.
There is also quite a mythology that goes along with it…
about mystical qualities, enhanced creativity, green fairies, and the like.
It is often prepared using a special glass and spoon…
the absinthe poured into the bottom of the glass,
the spoon placed over the glass,
a sugar cube placed upon it,
and ice water poured through the cube and spoon,
to produce a clouding effect called a “louche”, or ” Green Fairy”.
The unavailability of absinthe during the middle,
and latter part of the twentieth century only added to the mystique of it….
It was banned in the U.S. and France around World War I,
and has only recently been approved again for consumption
in the United States in the last fifteen years or so.
Much of what passed as Absinthe during that post-ban time was actually a milder herbal anis-like liquor called “Pastis” , ( examples would be “Ricard”, “Pastis51”, etc. )
…. it tastes similar to Absinthe,
and sometimes used a different wormwood plant than the supposedly more dangerous artemesia absinthium, like artemesia stelleriana, or a.annua.
There exist some really beautiful Pastis posters,
like the Feli 45 “Reviving the Green Fairy” by Raymond Ducatez (1938) (at right) …
……. and the posters advertising it are usually considered as synonymous with posters advertising the real stuff for collector purposes.
Around the time of the ban, it was believed that thujone,
a component of wormwood,
was responsible for a form of dementia that was common
among heavy-use absinthe drinkers of the time,
and caused Absinthe to be called the “Green Peril ” by some.
But it is now thought that the high alcohol content
in some of the available brands was the primary cause.
Current forms of absinthe available in the U.S. do limit the amount of thujone, however.
Several scholars of the period have suggested that
the early 1900’s drive to ban Absinthe
was only a useful tool or scapegoat for those
who ultimately wished to ban ALL alcoholic beverages,
— which, of course,
eventually happened in the United States during Prohibition.
Indeed, there were very interesting anti-absinthe posters produced during the period ,
and it will certainly make for a fascinating topic of a future post.
I find Absinthe Advertising Art particularly fascinating, though.
One can find all kinds of points of interest in vintage Absinthe prints.
Take the poster at right for instance:
It is a rare example,
because Rose’ Absinthe was only made by this one company, between 1900 and 1906.
One assumes the ‘louche’ effect
would be a creamy pink,
instead of creamy green.
Thus, the “Pink Fairy”, perhaps?
We don’t know the artist,
although there is a signature,
but matching no artist known to have produced posters.
We know only the studio in Paris- Camis, who printed the poster.
They did print work for:
Cusenier, Terminus, and St Raphael also–
—— and if I were to guess,
I would say the artist is Nicholas Tamagno,
mainly because of the way the eyes are drawn,
and his affiliation with that studio.
The term “Oxygenee” means
that Hydrogen Peroxide was added to the absinthe
to give it body and sparkle.
I love these posters.
They give one a peek into a time
when the world was still relatively innocent,
and beauty was expressed
with a ‘joie de vivre’ in an elegant fashion.
the period is called ” La Belle Époque “.
In the United States,
it was called the “Gilded Age”.
Europe calls it
the “Golden Age”.
It was a period of comparative peace and prosperity,
between 1880 and 1910, in which the creative arts also flourished.
The favored style of the period was called ” Art Nouveau ”
…. practiced by well known artists like:
Alphonse Mucha, Rene Lalique, Gustav Klimt, and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
These posters are excellent examples of this style being put to work in advertising art:
—- and some of Europe’s top artists of the time created them.
The posters of this era and subject are full of life,
and often contain interesting symbolic language,
in some cases more akin to propaganda than advertising.
They can communicate all kinds of things to the viewer–
and one can learn a lot from them
with just a keen eye and a little historical perspective.
The 1895 “Bethelot Absinthe” ad
by Henry Thiriet (right) for instance…
There’s an awful lot going on here, n’est pas?
Here you have the
whole social order of 1895 Paris displayed in action…
The working girl catching the eye of the middle class gentleman,
who is so busy staring at her,
he doesn’t notice that:
1: a poor waif is stealing his absinthe
2: he is pouring the water directly on the saucer,
— and thus, onto his lap
3: he is a figure of fun to the rich elite sitting behind him
One can also get a feel for the
wide Parisian Boulevards
and the open cafe culture.
and fancy all very much in view here.
But some of the best Absinthe posters were more sharply focused.
In particular, the work of an Italian living in Paris, Leonetto Cappiello.
Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) was an innovative poster art designer, who created many a memorable Absinthe poster.
Despite having no formal art training,
Cappiello’s technique of de-emphasizing backgrounds
and focusing on a single subject
was cutting edge for the time,
and influenced many of the poster artists who came after.
He was a very prolific artist,
and produced over 500 ad art pieces for clients,
Campari and Angelus Liqueurs,
to Mossant Hats,
and Baroni Pasta.
Some of his more famous posters were:
Green Devil for Maurin Quina
( 1906- quinine and wine )
Angel on Grapes for Asti Cinzano
( 1910 – wine)
His Absinthe pieces are exceptionally well thought of,
Lady with Bottle for Absinthe Ducros Fils ( 1901– 2nd ABOVE )
A Lady’s First Absinthe for J.Edouard Pernod ( 1903 – ABOVE, Right )
Absinthe Gempp Pernod Lunel (on the bottom of this post) .
Eugene Oge (1861-1936) was the house artist
for the Charles Verneau printing company,
from 1890 to 1902,
which produced works for:
Etienne Picon, and Amer Durand.
But many poster publishers
ended up publishing Oge’s work,
including about 30 projects by Pierre Vercasson.
Best known non-Absinthe posters of Oge include:
La Menthe-Pastille ( Hague Court ) ,
Waterman Pen ,
and Moskov Aperitif .
But, for our purposes,
Oge is best known for his posters for:
Cousin Jeune Absinthe de Pontarlier,
and Super Absinthe de Bailly.
Henri Privat-Livemont was a leading light
in the latter part of the Art Nouveau movement.
Born in 1861 in Brussels,
he was drawing proficiently at age 13,
attending the Arts Academy of Saint-Josse.
He did well known ad posters for:
and Chocolat Delacre,
Even non-absinthe fans have seen his most famous poster (RIGHT) ,
for Absinthe Robette,
done in 1896.
Interestingly, Privat-Livemont designed this work with a halo-esque glow about the female subjects’ head,
—- as if to indicate she was, perhaps,
about to imbibe in the nectar of the Gods.
She is holding up the Absinthe as in an offering,
the spoon and sugar is still present on top of the glass,
and the louche reaction is stylized clearly.
Other leading Absinthe Poster artists include:
Henry Thiriet —
Nicolas Tamagno —
Absinthe Terminus, (6th from top)
Jean-Adrien Mercier —
Raymond Ducatez —
Felix Pernod (3rd from top)
Marcel Auzolle —
Rivoire Absinthe ,
La Cressonnee (right) ,
Information on most of these artists is relatively scarce,
and I will be adding more information on them as I find it,
…. but we are fortunate that are able to see and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Most of the products in these adverts,
such as Absinthe Rosinette,
and La Cressonnee,
are also gone, never to be revived.
Of course, in several cases at least,
that’s probably a good thing,
since they used chemical additives to make their product unique —
…. which today would be considered unsafe for human consumption.
one occasionally may be pardoned for a certain nostalgia…..
…. a vague inherited subconscious reverie of days such as those of La Belle Epoch.
If you liked this post, you might also like:
The Art of Aubrey Beardsley —
Le coeur qui crie l’amour,
pour cette femme tout les jours,
celle qui a notre coeur,
et notre bonheur …
Une femme parfaite ŕ nos yeux,
nos yeux tant amoureux,
on était ŕ la recherche d’amour,
et enfin elle est lŕ chaque jour …
Une saint-valentin dans ses bras,
oů on glisse des mots tout bas,
pour dire son amour,
qui pour elle durera toujours …
Elle qui a notre coeur,
qui sčche nos pleurs,
et en cette belle saint-valentin,
cet amour ne fait qu’un …
Certains attendent des bébés,
et d’autres seulement ŕ s’aimer,
certains vont se mariés,
et d’autres l’amour fęté ..