How Great Artists’ Decreasing Vision Increased their Artistic Vision

Even if we categorize great masters under different movements and era’s, each artist regardless of that has a style that is distinct from the rest. For instance, Monet and Degas were from the same movement- ‘Impressionism’, yet their methods and techniques were poles apart. This individualistic style is what we call an ‘artists vision’, seeing the world through the eyes of the master. However as these artists ocular vision decreased, surprisingly their artistic vision increased. With age, most of them struggling with  vision disorder causing eye power deterioration and so their art style’s also changed, unpredictably that lead to the creation of some of the most innovative and discrete artworks.

Monet had nuclear cataract, this caused blurred vision and loss of color sensitivity. The world for him now appeared foggier and yellow hued. His color palette shifted from bright blues and greens to subdued yellows, purples and reds. Some of the most distinguished Water lily paintings were created during this phase, the artworks had a unique neutral and muddy appeal. His blurred vision however added an interesting abstractness to his artworks.

‘Water lily pond’ by Claude Monet. His paintings developed a muddy appeal after he contracted Cataract.

Degas was another impressionist artist who was tormented by vision problem, he had eye retinal disease called ‘Retinopathy’. Unlike Monet who changed his color palette, Degas switched his media, in place of oil colors he started using pastels. The use of pastels added a dreamlike surreal feel to his ballerina paintings. Increasingly, his artworks developed an enigmatic unfinished look. This abrupt and fragmented feel added a very defining character to his paintings.

‘Dancers’ by Edgar Degas. Due to his eye disorder he switched his media, in place of oil colors he started using pastels.

Van Gogh the most celebrated post impressionist artist’s artworks had two distinct characteristics- rich yellow and bright halos. The yellow dominance in his paintings during his ‘Yellow period’ can be attributed to the intake of ‘Digitalis’, a drug given to him for treating his epilepsy. It caused Van Gogh to develop a ‘yellow vision’, which further lead him to use the color in the most intense and ground-breaking manner. Van Gogh also suffered from lead poisoning (caused due to the toxic lead-based paints used by him), which contributed to the circular swirls in his paintings, as lead- poisoned patients often see halos around lights due to swelled retinas.

‘The Harvest’ by Vincent van Gogh. The yellow dominance in his paintings was due to the intake of ‘Digitalis’, a drug responsible for his ‘yellow vision’.

Pissarro known as the tearful impressionist artist had a malfunctioning tear duct because of which he couldn’t paint outdoors. His eyes were to be shielded from wind and dust to avoid severe inflammation and swelling. However that didn’t stop him from painting landscapes, he painted indoors seated behind a glass window. Some of the finest Paris cityscape’s and still life were created by him from indoors.

‘Still life’ by Camille Pissarro. Some of the finest still life were created by him from indoors.

Cezanne and Renoir were myopic and coincidentally both the artists refused to wear glasses. They utilized the blurriness caused due to their shortsightedness to their advantage. Renoir used soft and gentle brush strokes while Cezanne added ambiguity and abstraction to his artworks with great dexterity.

Still life’s by Cezanne and Renoir. They utilized the blurriness caused due to their shortsightedness to their advantage.

Matisse, Rembrandt, Rodin and Cassatt are few among other noted masters who have been identified with eye disorder. In spite of the challenges they faced due to the diseases they didn’t give up painting instead their creativity touched new heights and they produced some of the finest masterpieces.