A recent essay by Japanese medical scientist Kazunori Asada proposes that Vincent van Gogh may have been colorblind—which, if accurate, would have influenced his color palette and might have resulted in the drastic, clashing hues for which he’s so well known (and admired). Asada compares side-by-side images of van Gogh’s artwork with the same image run through his Chromatic Vision Simulator (quite fun to play around with if you have a moment) and sees what he judges to be a normalizing effect. Artinfo.com’s Kyle Chayka was quick to poke some holes in Asada’s argument, pointing out that “the versions of the paintings he uses aren’t necessarily true to life.”
Whether true or not, I’m glad to have come across Asada’s research. It raises an interesting question about the artist’s role in relation to his or her work—if a piece speaks to you, does it matter what message the artist intended to send? Would van Gogh bang his fists and be upset that we’d all gotten it wrong, or would he smile for the fact that people are finding beauty and meaning where he himself didn’t even intend it?
Amy Wike, Publicity and Marketing Coordinator
This is incorrect in my opinion. At least thirty-five years ago I read how some of the medications given Van Gogh for epilepsy and syphilis most likely caused his vision to see the color yellow most strongly.
Also studying his paintings one can see a masterful use of color. Many of his letters talk about his study of the most modern color theories of his day and his purposeful use of complementaries to create moods and effects.
The author is not an artist as far as I can tell and his lack of painting experience shows in the essay.
Interesting to hear that his medication may have come into play! And it’s funny you mention that the author is likely not an artist — you hit it on the nose. Asada actually adds the caveat “(with my personal comments – note that I do not claim deep knowledge of art!)” to his essay. Thanks for your comment,