The meaning of the letters in this colorful still life is a mystery, one whose solution may have been intensely personal for Hartley. The letters, and the clean, flat shapes that simultaneously seem to be pasted to the picture plane and register as objects in illusionistic space, recall the Cubist collage aesthetic that Hartley embraced during his stays in Europe. Handsome Drinks is one of the first paintings the artist completed after World War I forced his reluctant return to the United States. It features a glass of green absinthe, a potent drink associated with European café life, a social milieu that Hartley had found extraordinarily stimulating.
(Text by the Brooklyn Museum, CC BY 3.0).