Viktor Oliva, The Absinthe Drinker, 1901

Oliva was one of the bohemian artists hanging out in Parisian cafes around the turn of the century (he was a true ‘Bohemian,’ in that he was from the region of Bohemia in the present-day Czech Republic), and it is within that bohemian culture that absinthe rose in popularity. Many conservatives called for the drink to be banned, for it was thought to contain a psychotropic drug that made consumers hallucinate, although we now know that the chemical compound thujone contained within is in such trace amounts that it does not affect drinkers. Stories of absinthe ruining the lives of drinkers were common, although we can probably attribute their hallucinations to raging alcoholism rather than the drink itself. In any case, absinthe is also known as ‘The Green Fairy’ due to its natural green colour from ingredients such as wormwood, anise, sweet fennel, and other herbs. Oliva gives us a drunkard’s hallucination of a sexy green nude. The waiter at right has stopped in his tracks, looking dumbfounded. He apparently sees the specter too.

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