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"The Van Aarden Family Gets Blitzed on a Sunday Afternoon"

Gin Stein

Scholars have wondered over the years whether Stein's unfortunate name had anything to do with his ardent prohibitionism and his tendency to show families caught up in the evils of drink. This painting is one of a long series that Stein did between 1659 and 1672. Other titles include "The Ruysfelds and Their Friends Get Schnockered in Antwerp," "Kegger at the Knopvoorts" and the poetically-titled "Die Famille aus Geshtunken Getten, Ist Luffmenken Kinderhetten," which can be loosely translated as either "The Family That Drinks Together Links Together," or as "Getting Loaded in Your Nest, That's the High Road to Incest."

Stein always made sure his subjects would be in the right mood by sending along a barrel of whiskey beforehand. By the time he got his easel up everyone was at his best, and the painting went effortlessly, punctuated only by visits to the outhouse and projectile vomiting. At one point it was thought that Stein added the animals that populate these works as classic symbols of morality: the monkey for madness, the swine for gluttony, the duck as a natural response to an object thrown at one's head. It appears from newly-acquired evidence, however, that Stein brought these animals with him to liven things up, which he felt would make for a better final product. He was also known to supply opium and other drugs to the children.

While all his works can easily be subsumed under the mantle of Depressionism, his later paintings are particularly sordid in tone and content. His final work, "Three Sheets to the Wind at the Convent of Saint Hedwig," nearly crosses the line into pornartistry, especially his placement of the aroused mule and the trapeze.


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