Absinthe on Fire?


The Loiterers, 1887
Oil on canvas
18 X 24 inches

Source: http://www.godelfineart.com/artists/wiles_absinthe.htm

This particular work dates from 1887 and it has been suggested that the subjects are the artist himself and his wife May. The couple, who were married in 1887, is shown drinking absinthe, an activity best known from the images of the French artists Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. The liqueur, which is extremely bitter and exceptionally potent, is traditionally poured through a lump of sugar on a specially slotted spoon and mixed with water. This creates what is called the louche, a milky white effect that occurs when compounds in the liqueur precipitate out of the absinthe-water solution. While probably painted in New York City, Wiles’ Absinthe Drinkers reveals a direct link between the French and American Impressionists.

13 responses to “Absinthe on Fire?

  1. What makes you sure that they are really drinking absinthe?

  2. You might find this interesting:


    Correspondence with the gallery owner in which he confirms that there is no foundation for this painting being linked to absinthe (apart from the url reference).

  3. In this case they are dring Cafe Royal, that is the sugar lump is imbibed with alcohol and lit before mixing it into the coffee.
    But I personally think this is absinthe as you need a fairly potent drink to do this! And Toulouse Lauterc certainly did not have the money to buy Cognac or even Whiskey!
    I suppose I’m starting a battle here!
    Let’s drink to that!

  4. I have to apologize as I got misdirected by my enthusiasm and did not read properly who was the author of the painting!
    Alan, I owe you the next one! (but I still suspect they are drinking the Green Godess)

  5. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec used to drink a cocktail called Tremblement de Terre which I think is half absinthe and half cognac (although maybe a rustic variety). He kept it in a special cane with a glass vial inside! You can purchase a reproduction thesedays I hear – good for the sake too!

  6. Well, could be. But that might prove as the end of the road!

  7. Absinthe has an amazing history in art, I always enjoy seeing works that feature the mysterious drink.


  8. Charles, I agree. However, read the correspondence. This painting is called The Loiterers, and the gallery owner confirms that there is nothing to link this to absinthe.

    Given the quest for truth that some people here are pursuing, can we at least delete this one from the list of works that feature absinthe? Noting too that real absinthe does not need to be burnt to be appreciated.

  9. read the correspondence 😐

    💡 please publish the correspondence

  10. It’s in the link I posted.

  11. There is a method, too, to drinking absinthe – a procedure favoured by many of the decadent artistes of the Paris salons where Baudelaire, Rimbaud and later Wilde held court. I fill a teaspoon with sugar coated in absinthe, put a match to it and drip the flaming, caramelising crystals into a glass of absinthe which also catches fire. Then I add cold water to quell the flames and dilute the drink.

    We sip. The wormwood is bitter, alleviated as you might expect by the sweet sugar

    Victoria Moore, The New Statesman.

  12. Got to love ambiguous writing. Note that in Victoria’s 1999 article she never mentions Baudelaire et al. performing this ritual only that it’s favoured by decadent artistes in paris salons.

  13. 😀 Ahoj Ari

    Let’s party like it’s 1899! do you have a light? 8) Are you saying that it wasn’t favoured by decadent artists?

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