Artists’ Intoxicating Romance with Absinthe

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The spirit was a muse extraordinaire from 1859, when Édouard Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker shocked the annual Salon de Paris, to 1914, when Pablo Picasso created his painted bronze sculpture, The Glass of Absinthe….It shaped Symbolism, Surrealism, Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Cubism.

Get your slotted spoon and sugar cubes ready: here’s a retrospective on absinthe and how it became the artists’ and writers’ drink of choice.

Apparently thujone, the chemical in absinthe’s signature herb wormwood, usually wasn’t present in large enough quantities to inspire hallucination. But let’s skim over that part—it ruins all the fun.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →