Absinthe Robette is an 1896 Art Nouveau poster created by Belgian artist Henri Privat-Livemont.

Henri Privat-Livemont was a fantastic artist of many works but he was most famous for his absinthe posters, which are very popular with private art collectors around the world as well as with auction houses and antique dealers.

What is Absinthe? Absinthe is described as a  distilled highly alcoholic beverage. It is a spirit derived from the flowers and leaves of  Artemisia Absinthium (“grand wormwood”), also containing sweet fennel, green anise and other medicinal herbs. Absinthe has a natural green color but is sometimes colorless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as “the green fairy”.

It became popular as an alcoholic drink in France between the late 19th century and early 20th century. It was very popular among Parisian artists and writers. Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Rimbaud, Vincent Van Gogh were just a few of some famous absinthe drinkers. It’s been rumored that Van Gogh used to down the stuff like it was water.

Now I’ve never done it myself because I’m drug free, but absinthe has often been described as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and hallucinogen. It has a chemical compound in it called thujone, which is blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe due to its hallucinogenic properties.

The word ‘absinthe’ is in fact the French word for wormwood and derives from the Latin name, Artemisia Absinthium. It’s commonly understood to mean a high proof liquor containing wormwood. There are legal versions of absinthe that can be bought in the United States but it has to be free of the compound thujone. So to some purists, it isn’t the real thing.

Absinthe Robette is probably the most iconic image used to advertise absinthe. It depicts a beautiful semi-nude woman holding up a glass of absinthe in amazement. The color green dominates the background because of its association with absinthe.

I don’t know if the woman is supposed to be the mythical “Green Fairy” associated with absinthe or what, but Privat-Livemont depicts her beautifully. In my interpretation of the painting, she IS the Green Fairy waiting to seduce and allure, much like the many Parisian artists who were seduced by its hallucinogenic properties.

This is a timeless masterpiece that has stood the test of time and one doesn’t have to be an absinthe drinker to appreciate its beauty.

–Roz Abellera





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s