Sunday, February 6, 2011

Before and After: The Green Fairy

Paris Street; Rainy Day. The most favorite painting I've never seen. It would be difficult to miss, measuring nearly seven by nine feet at Chicago's Art Institute. These two lovely aristocrats resemble in appearance the artist, Gustave Caillebotte, born into a family of textile moguls. An attorney by trade, Gustave took up the brush instead, painting the grand boulevards of Haussman's revamped Paris. Caillebotte's Paris is one of beauty in rain, snow and sparkling sunshine as seen from its sidewalks, balconies and rooftops. This particular painting has an almost photographic style as opposed to the paintings of two of his buddies, Renoir and Monet. Through Caillebotte's eyes Paris is a place of wondrous beauty.

Enter Edgar Degas, also a son of aristocracy and the de Gas banking family. Don't say "Day-ga."(Say de with a short e sound while you're thinking of the oo sound.) He, like Caillebotte, studied the law but found his niche in a box of paints not on the grand boulevards of Paris, but instead among the partiers of Pigalle and Montmartre. Meet two of his buddies; actress Ellen Andree and Marcellin Desboutin at the Cafe de la Nouvelle Athenes partaking of a sip of absinthe. Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic sugar infused spirit known for the wallop it delivers in short order. A wallop that is said to hang on for days. So powerful that the "green fairy" as it is called has been illegal for over 100 years. I guess so.

George Moore, an Irish art critic and contemporary of the Impressionists said of this painting, "The tale is not a pleasant one, but it is a lesson." Before or after? Hmmmm. Before. No question.
P.S. Notice that the tables have no legs. Really? Or have you been tasting the green fairy?


  1. Have you seen the picture book Chasing Degas? You would like it!

  2. Hey Melinda. I'll have to check out Chasing Degas. Thanks for the tip. Hope y'all are well.

  3. Paris Street, Rainy Day is yet another thing we have in common. That painting is my all time favorite. The first time David and I ever went to the Art Institute, I stood there in front of it for like an hour. It is ENORMOUS. I even bought a mug from the gift shop with a much smaller version on it. :)

  4. Lost my comment somewhere in cyberworld. Genneysa, our worlds collide again! Yay! Paris Street must be so enormously gorgeous. Some day...
    Now we'll see what else we can place on our "things we both like" list. Haven't even gotten to music yet.