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Beer In Art Special: Lefebvre’s Chloe

This Saturday edition of my Beer In Art series is a little different, which is why I’ve decided to call it a series “Special.” The work of art itself does not depict beer but its story is inseparably connected to beer. Thanks to Australian Bulletin reader Geoff (Thanks, Geoff!) who sent me the story of Chloe, a painting in search of a home, who finally found it in a Melbourne pub, the Young & Jackson.

The work was painted by the famous French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1875, and it’s title is Chloé

The painting quickly won Lefebvre fame and numerous awards including “gold medals in the Paris Salon in 1875, the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 and the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880.”

But the story of the painting was far from over. Here Doomed Damsels picks up the story:

In 1883, after three weeks of exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, scandalized citizens objected to this unseemly display of the naked female form and Chloe disappeared from public view until 1908, when she was purchased by Henry Figsby Young, an ex-digger turned hotel proprietor, for £800, a very large sum in those days. Henry took the painting back to his home above Young and Jackson’s Hotel and his outraged wife banished it to the public bar, where it charms the patrons to this day.

The fate of Chloe’s model, a young Parisian artist’s model named Marie, did not, sadly, have a happy ending. Little is known about Marie, “except she was approximately 19 years of age at the time of painting. Roughly two years later, Marie, after throwing a party for friends, boiled a potion of poisonous matches” (made at the time with phosphorous) — drank the concoction and died. The reason for her suicide is thought to be unrequited love. Some accounts speculate that she had a love affair with Lefebvre which he ended, others say she developed a crush that he refused, while still others suggest that “he seduced both her and her sister.” There are various stories about Chloe — the painting and the girl — at Australian Beers, the BBC’s h2g2 and at Young & Jackson’s website.

In 1973, John Larkins wrote of Chloe in Australian Pubs. “[D]ear Chloe, soft and naked, withholding nothing and temptingly virginal.” And beer historian Rafal Zakrzewski wrote in 2001, “Sweet things do not go well with a bitter Aussie lager — Chloe is an exception.”

Young & Jackson’s is one of Melbourne’s oldest pubs, having opened in 1861, though it’s only been known by its present name since 1875, when new buyers, Henry Young and Thomas Jackson, bought it. You can read about the history of Young & Jacksn’s at Wikipedia or the Chicago Bar Project.

Outside the Young & Jackson, in Melbourne, Australia.

You can also see more of Lefebvre’s art at Jukes Joseph Lefebvre: The Complete Works, and also at ArtMagick.

In addition, to serving local and imported beers, the Young & Jackson also has a beer contracted for them in honor of Chloe. The beer is called Naked Ale.

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