Visitors to the exhibition Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay can get a look at one of the Fine Arts Museum's newest acquisitions, The Absinthe Drinkers (Les buveurs d'absinthe), 1881, by Jean-François Raffaëlli (French, 1850–1924). The Absinthe Drinkers is widely regarded as among Raffaëlli's most important and accomplished paintings. It can be viewed at the entrance to Birth of Impressionism this summer, but will eventually take up permanent residence in the Legion of Honor's gallery 19.
Although not counted among the Impressionists, the Realist Raffaëlli nonetheless exhibited The Absinthe Drinkers (at the invitation of Degas, who sought to increase the number of figural painters involved) at the sixth Impressionist group show in 1881.There it caused a sensation due to its gritty imagery and portrayal of the devastating effects of addiction to the potent drink absinthe. Raffaëlli was in fact one of the few painters who managed to exhibit at both the Salon and with the Impressionists.
More of Raffaëlli's work can be seen at the de Young and the Legion of Honor: The Family of Jean-le-Boîteux, Peasants from Plougasnou, 1876, is on view in Birth of Impressionism, and there are four works by the artist included in the exhibition Impressionist Paris: City of Light, at the Legion of Honor through September 26.