Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field behind Saint Paul Hospital with a Reaper” — Top: Original / Bottom: Color blind simulation
Could Vincent van Gogh‘s acidic sense of color and preference for bright, clashing hues, long the province of the Fauves, be a result of colorblindness and not just an aesthetic judgment? An essay by Kazunori Asada, a Japanese medical scientist and poet, has recently come to the attention of science blogs drawn to its argument that the famous painter wasn’t so much an artistic revolutionary as he was visually impaired. Asada’s article was sparked by an experience in Hokkaido, Japan’s “Color Vision Experience Room,” an immersive simulator that makes it possible to perceive color the way people with different types of colorblindness might experience it. When Asada saw replicas of the artist’s canvases, he had a revelation.
Van Gogh’s paintings, Asada writes, became more beautiful and more natural in the filtered light. “The incongruity of color and roughness of line had quietly disappeared,” the scientist writes. “Each picture had changed into one of brilliance with very delicate lines and shades.” Asada went on to experiment with a piece of software that further simulates different variations of colorblindness, settling on a midrange spectrum deficiency that he felt best modified van Gogh’s work. The deficiency meant that van Gogh’s eyes had a moderate lack of receptors for the color red.
Asada’s filtered images are indeed more even and naturalistic than the originals; instead of the bright, brash colors for which we know van Gogh, the hues are organic and flow more smoothly into each other — they’re more traditionally complementary. The intense reds and oranges of “Wheat Field behind Saint-Paul Hospital” turn into autumnal golds. The eerie greens of “Starry Night” become more yellow, the red-oranges in the field are gone from “The Sower,” and “Sunflowers” becomes drab. See above left for one example and scroll through Asada’s essayfor the rest.
There are clear issues with Asada’s argument. First, the versions of the paintings he uses aren’t necessarily true to life. Our dependence on digital screens means that it’s hard to make colors remain stable on a computer-to-computer basis. Asada’s images aren’t of the highest quality, and there’s a strong chance the true paintings look completely different. There’s also the philosophical argument. How can we argue that van Gogh’s paintings look better through a filter? To assume that the painter’s provocative artistic choices were simply the result of a medical condition is to completely disregard his own creativity. Van Gogh’s colors are meant to clash; the unorthodox pairings were part of the Post-Impressionist and Fauvist aesthetic. Or were Paul Gauguin and André Derain also colorblind?
The discussion is reminiscent of the argument that after Monet had the lens of one eyeballremoved due to cataracts, his palette changed to deep blue because he was suddenly able to see ultraviolet light (the lens, protecting the eye, filters ultraviolet rays naturally). It’s the chicken or the egg. Were the artists innovative simply because of their biology, or were they innovative because they were creative, pioneering artists? The latter seems more likely.
One of the things I added to my life about two years was a personal trainer that comes to my home weight lifitng/art studio twice a week. We work out and talk about a lot of things.
She said something today that really caught my attention. We do not see our sense of self when we look in the mirror. People see us as they think we are, not as we are. They don’t see how we think or feel about ourselves and if you could only see ourselves in that light we all would like ourselves a whole lot more.
Painting from a photograph is challenging in the beginning, but add that there is a bit missing from the that photograph leaves more to your imagination. My good friend gave a photograph from her hotel room ion a trip to Portugal that has great memories. To translate the memories into something poetic enough to be a beautiful painting was my project.
In my painting group, we are given the “Arm Pit” award when we take something that may seem impossible to paint and are able to turn it into a lovely painterly work. I got the “Arm Pit” award for this one.
In my group that comes to paint in my studio on Fridays, we were challenged to paint using the Zorn Method of color. This is painted so far using Black, white. yellow ochre and alizarin crimson. It is challenging and somewhat fun. Need to add depth and light yet.
Butter fingers… When Ai Weiwei smashed this Han dynasty urn on camera, the photographs became more valuable than the urn was in the first place. It was a defiant act of cultural recycling – out with the old and in with the new. Weiwei’s provocative works got him placed under house arrest by the Chinese government in 2011. 140,000 people petitioned for his release, Tate Modern painted “Release Ai Weiwei” on its exterior and Anish Kapoor cancelled his Beijing exhibition in a gesture of solidarity.
We all come together on Tuesdays for lessons and camaraderie. There are seven of us generally that have been painting together for up to twenty years. I am the new-be at about twelve years. In Julann Campbell’s garage we paint, talk about art, don’t discuss politics (we disagree), television, movies, food and life in general.
This group is very special to all of us in our lives. We encourage each other, help define our work, work our our painting frustrations and share what is important to all of us.
Julann took from Sergei Bongart, the famous Russian painter and we now try to translate his style with contemporary artists such as C.W. Mundy, Richard Schmidt, Kevin McPhearson and others.
Tuesday has been my favorite day of the week for the last twelve years. I schedule my life around Tuesday. It makes me happy, it challenges me and makes me know I can do better and more.
To quote Malcolm Gladwell, “It takes 10,000 hours (at least) to be an expert at anything.” I am only at about 4,000 hours, so I have a long way to travel before I where I want to be.
Painting every day is now what I want to be doing.