More about The Bitter Potion
Debauchery, drunks, and downers. You have just entered the world of Adriaen Brouwer.
Also known as The Bitter Draught and The Bitter Tonic, this is one of the last paintings he made and probably my favorite. Contrary to what meets the eye, this man may not be getting crunk off the sauce. Historians have speculated that what the man is drinking is actually a concoction of herbs from the cinchona tree, which was used to fight off malaria because of its high levels of quinine.
Brouwer specialized in creating paintings of the less refined elements of life, such as peasants and drunks. I have always heard that artists paint what they know, so the fact that Brouwer painted ugly, unhappy drunks throughout most of his career should come as no surprise. Brouwer was a reckless drunk with an inability to keep a job due to his lust for booze and drugs. While he may not have been the best employee, he probably would be a good drinking buddy for a night on the town with some solid people watching.
I love a good chuckle at the expense of another person’s wellbeing. Call me callous but I do take a sick pleasure in it, and I think that's what is so rewarding about this painting. Through the beer goggles firmly attached to Brouwer at all times, he understood this merciless humanly desire to look at those below us and judge, and he totally capitalized on it. Give the people what they want! The refined nobility could not sink to the lowly level of getting sloshed in a pub, so they would instead pay artists like Brouwer to engage in the depravity for them and then paint what he saw. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
While this man may or may not be drunk, the guttural noise that practically leaps from his throat out of canvas is not the act of a true gentleman. It's disgusting, really. But we sort of admire the candidness of the pose. So let your inner slob out and join this man in burping freely. And hope no one decides to profit from painting your bad habits.