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Wed Aug 22, 2012, 10:02 AM

Was Vincent van Gogh Color Blind? It Sure Looks Like It

Around a tenth of all men are color blind or color deficient, and as Joe Hanson discusses on It’s Okay to Be Smart, famed painter Vincent van Gogh may have been counted among them.

Hanson references the work of Kazunori Asada, a researcher and designer who is concerned with color vision. Asada had seen some of van Gogh’s work in what he calls a color vision experience room – one where the lighting conditions are meant to simulate color blindness.

Under the filtered light, I found that these paintings looked different from the van Gogh which I had always seen. I love van Gogh’s paintings and have been fortunate to view a number of the originals in various art museums. This painter has a somewhat strange way to use color. Although the use of color is rich, lines of different colors run concurrently, or a point of different color suddenly appears. I’ve heard it conjectured that van Gogh had color vision deficiency.

However, in the van Gogh images seen in the color vision experience room, to me the incongruity of color and roughness of line had quietly disappeared. And each picture had changed into one of brilliance with very delicate lines and shades. This was truly wonderful experience.


(original and simulated colorblind)
more
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2012/08/was-vincent-van-gogh-color-blind-it-sure-looks-like-it/

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Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply Was Vincent van Gogh Color Blind? It Sure Looks Like It (Original post)
n2doc Aug 2012 OP
navarth Aug 2012 #1
bmbmd Aug 2012 #2
BB1 Aug 2012 #3
dipsydoodle Aug 2012 #5
bmbmd Aug 2012 #18
dipsydoodle Aug 2012 #19
felix_numinous Aug 2012 #4
TalkingDog Aug 2012 #12
dipsydoodle Aug 2012 #20
AlbertCat Aug 2012 #6
On the Road Aug 2012 #7
1monster Aug 2012 #11
AlbertCat Aug 2012 #14
TalkingDog Aug 2012 #8
JDPriestly Aug 2012 #16
TalkingDog Aug 2012 #17
JDPriestly Aug 2012 #9
TalkingDog Aug 2012 #13
Vestigial_Sister Aug 2012 #10
Motown_Johnny Aug 2012 #15

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 10:22 AM

1. fascinating, thanks for posting.

Makes me want to read Lust For Life and The Letters Of Vincent Van Gogh all over again.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 11:03 AM

2. As one who is "color deficient"

i might point out that the two images are identical to me.

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Response to bmbmd (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 12:19 PM

3. Same here.

I know very well I'm colorblind. Looks just alike.

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Response to bmbmd (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 02:07 PM

5. Notwithstanding that

Last edited Fri Aug 24, 2012, 05:37 PM - Edit history (1)

are you saying you couldn't copy a colour you were looking at with paint or pick it out from a colour chart used as a reference guide. ?

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Response to dipsydoodle (Reply #5)

Fri Aug 24, 2012, 05:21 PM

18. Correct.

I only wear black socks and blue socks, and I have terrible difficulties with shades. As an example, I only see two colors in a rainbow-blue and yellow.

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Response to bmbmd (Reply #18)

Fri Aug 24, 2012, 05:33 PM

19. Thanks

Helps me understand better. There's an interaction between hue and luminance. Dark blue in poor light would look black : its interesting you are able to differ between blue and black.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 01:30 PM

4. Amazing, that unintended consequences

of altered eyesight gave the world such a gift of color. Like Monet's impressionism being a record of his myopia.
I've always wondered just how diverse human beings are in the way we perceive the world, though we may be using the same language to describe it.

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Response to felix_numinous (Reply #4)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 07:48 AM

12. Actually Monets color palette (at the end of his career) was a function of cataracts, not myopia.

Last edited Thu Aug 23, 2012, 08:56 AM - Edit history (1)

He didn't have Myopia in any way shape or form.

There are always badly formed theories by "scientists" who have no conception of what it takes to Master the art and craft of painting. Or seemingly, why artists make the creative choices they do.

In science, parameters are set by the scientific method. You have to play the hand you are given when dealing with materials, effects, processes. (...supposedly. Though if you read any history regarding science you'll find them to be as small minded, territorial and fundamentalist as any other group of people and hence very prone to "affecting" the outcome of their experiments), but artists are under no such constraints. Their job is to break the rules or play with new ones while maintaining a set of self imposed parameters.

A scientist can't just make up the outcome he wants (though many do), but that is exactly what the artist does. -I want to make a painting using mostly yellow and red and I'll use that field I saw last week as a template.- An artist works out the outcome, then experiments with how to get there. A scientist devises an experiment to see where it leads.

Rather than trying to "demysitify" art by stripping the artists of their Mastery due to some random physical circumstance, why don't scientist actually learn what artists think and do before publishing such trivial nonsense?

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Response to felix_numinous (Reply #4)

Fri Aug 24, 2012, 05:40 PM

20. Kandinski's paintings are thought to have been influenced

by the fact he could taste colour.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 03:39 PM

6. Baloney!

All you have to do is look at his paintings in chronological order.... or at least the different phases he goes thru.

His early paintings are very grey and brown...



and the colors develop into a blue/ green almost pastel phase....



and later into a bold phase...





You'll also notice the brushwork doesn't start out bold and scattered.

The man was NOT colorblind.

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Response to AlbertCat (Reply #6)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 04:25 PM

7. Thanks for the History

The assumption behind the study seems to be that the incongruity in Van Gogh's paintings is unintentional.

Of the two pictures above, the one on the right certainly looks smoother. However, IMO the real one is superior because of the more contrasting colors.

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Response to AlbertCat (Reply #6)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 07:14 AM

11. Agreed. Although I've always thought that Impressionism was probably started by

someone who was myopic, being severly so myself. The softened lines created by the short focus of near sightedness can be quite beautiful at times, even if quite inconvenient. The faerie lights we use on Christmas trees spread out to about an inch and a half diameter of soft starlight like light (exactly like the stars in the second "blue" painting in your post).

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Response to 1monster (Reply #11)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 03:59 PM

14. I know what you mean...

I'm myopic like crazy.... with astigmatism.

But I think Impressionism's "fuzziness" comes from painting outdoors, very fast, to catch the light.

Also Cezanne does a seemingly mundane thing but that really makes a difference: He uses the actual brushstrokes to define the image. Like the strokes on a roof will follow the roof line. The brushstrokes follow the contour of the crumpled cloth. Now it's more than just the placement of pigment that defines the image, but also how the pigment was applied.

I know.... too much art history!

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 08:48 PM

8. Agreeing with AlbertCat

If he were color deficient, then he would've used color more "haphazardly". In other words where he was using a yellow orange in the painting above, he may have added a yellow green (for the sake of argument) in random places without realizing they were different colors.

I've taught color deficient student and know of one instance (related to me by a former teacher of mine) where the artist was painting abstractly and would throw in random patches of hot pinks and lime greens in an otherwise muted field of color. When asked by my teacher why he was doing that, the artist had no clue what my teacher was talking about.

So, no. It's very highly unlikely that he used color in such a controlled manner and was in any way color deficient.

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Response to TalkingDog (Reply #8)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 07:38 PM

16. Are what we call color-blind people all blind or deficient with regard to the

same colors and to the same degree?

Isn't there red/green v. blue/green colorblindness?

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #16)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 08:17 PM

17. The generally accepted (tho technically inaccurate) types are red/green blue/yellow(ish)

and like anything inherited, can range from very mild manifestation to the complete inability to distinguish anything in that color range.

There is a complete inability to distinguish any color variation; in other words seeing in only shades of grey. (however, not 50... bad pun) But that is not the same thing as color deficiency.

Here is a really good site by a person who is color deficient. It has a lot of good information:
http://wearecolorblind.com/ In the upper right corner there is a little app that simulates the different forms of color blindness. Try it. Now imagine trying to use tints, shades and variations of the colors you "can't" see to color a painting or even a coloring book.



The three types of cones translate into three main types of colorblindness: Deuteran (green), Protan (red) and Tritan (blue) (and mixtures thereof, because you can have deficiencies in more than one color)



Imagine trying to paint the flower with some kind of underlying cohesion to your color scheme when you can only see the colors present on your palette in the shades from the other images. It would be like driving the Indy 500 in the fog with cheesecloth draped across your eyes. In other words, if you couldn't distinguish one or more colors with any degree of certainty, you would definitely not have such tight control over the nuance and range of colors used.

One of the assignments I give students is to copy a Master Work. Van Gogh pops up all the time as an option. If his color schemes and paint mixtures were simple, they would have less trouble reproducing them.

I usually discover my color deficient students when we start working with the color wheel or color mixing or in color theory. It becomes evident pretty quickly that they have trouble distinguishing colors that other people have no problems with.

Thank you for the thoughtful and open question.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 01:31 AM

9. Very good theory. Might be true.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #9)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 07:51 AM

13. See replies 8 and 12 to see why it's a horrible theory and is highly unlikely.

thanks.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 02:20 AM

10. pffft...

Vincent had no intention of producing a dung-colored and lifeless painting as that exhibited on the right.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Thu Aug 23, 2012, 06:34 PM

15. I'm open to the possibility

even after reading the posts here which contradict the finding.


I need more evidence than just a couple paintings though.

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