In the summer of 1889 Vincent van Gogh was hospitalized at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France for cutting off a portion of his own ear, and used painting as a part of his therapy. He had two rooms there, a bedroom and a studio, and he was incredibly productive – he completed 143 paintings while laid-up! (This period was actually the most prolific of his career, and when he died in 1890 he had been averaging a painting a day for the last couple of months.) Some of van Gogh’s pictures during this time were his interpretations of works by artists that he admired, such as Honoré Daumier’s engraving The Drinkers (1862). The later version is a brightly colored copy of Daumier’s composition, with the expressive, bold brush strokes that have become van Gogh’s trademark.
The painting, completed shortly before he died, is a light-hearted version of the parody of the four ages of man: childhood, youth, maturity and old age. Here we see four males, each depicting a different stage from this this cycle, drinking from a green jug on a green table. The color palette is mostly green to suggest that they are drinking the notorious and potent absinthe drink popular at the time. In Daumier’s version the exaggerated and disheveled figures were a little humorous but also a warning against the dangers of alcoholism. However, it is safe to say that van Gogh probably did not share this same sentiment, since his mental problems were probably exasperated by his substance abuse issues – he frequently enjoyed absinthe and also was known to eat his own paint and drink turpentine in his studio.
This trippy and dramatically rendered painting is a colorful glimpse into van Gogh’s genius mind, which was quickly descending into mental illness. This colorful smoothie is perfectly sweet and a much more wholesome start to your day than a glass full of absinthe! Not only is is super easy to make, but there is no hangover involved! Happy Thursday 🙂
Featured art: Vincent van Gogh, The Drinkers, 1890, oil on canvas