Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic, anise-flavoured spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers of the medicinal plant Artemisia absinthium. It is often referred to as la fée verte [the green fairy] because of its colouring, which is typically pale emerald green.
Originally formulated in Switzerland, absinthe became the most popular drink in 19th-century France. In fin-de-siècle Paris l’heure verte [the green hour] was a daily ritual. Traditionally it was mixed with three to five parts water, which caused it to turn cloudy, a process called louching – louche meaning (someone who is) shady or suspicious. Many artists, including Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet, devoted works to it or its powerfully intoxicating effects – see also Leonetto Cappiello’s Maurin Quina. Considered dangerously addictive, it was banned in most European countries in 1915.
Nover, the designer of the poster Absinthe Vichet is an unidentified pseudonym, but it is generally assumed to have been the proprietor and printer of the poster, L. Revon et Cie.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra