Tag Archives: realism

The poignant potency of ‘The Bitter Potion’

The Bitter Potion  (c. 1635) by Adriaen Brouwer

The Bitter Potion is an oil on wood by Flemish painter Adriaen Brouwer. It depicts a “low-life” young man with a grimacing face holding a bottle of medicine in his hand.

This type of painting is called a tronie.

It is a textbook example of Flemish genre painting and an excellent way to illustrate disgust, perhaps only equalled in poignancy by the noted self-portraits by Oscar Gustave Rejlander, which I’ve posted before.

The Bitter Potion is World Art Classic #300.

A double chin, disheveled hair and dirty boots

Napoléon Bonaparte abdicated in Fontainebleau (1845) by Paul Delaroche

Wham. What a painting.

Paul Delaroche often depicts his subject matter with an over-the-top sensationalism, think of his execution of Lady Jane Grey and the Christian female martyr floating down the river with tied hands.

The painting of a despondent Napoleon has a more subdued quality.

The high level of truthfulness does not arise from its photorealism but resides in the double chin, the disheveled hair and the dirty boots.

P.S. The painting is one of my WACs, that is, World Art Classics, an ongoing series of visual art and visual culture classics.