How eye disorders may have influenced the work of famous painters
By Andrew Anderson
Associate Professor, Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences, University of Melbourne
It’s been argued the Impressionists were short sighted. The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, Camille Pissarro/Wikimedia Commons
Vision is an important tool when creating a painted artwork. Vision is used to survey a scene, guide the artist’s movements over the canvas and provide feedback on the colour and form of the work. However, it’s possible for disease and disorders to alter an artist’s visual perception.
There is a long history of scientists and clinicians arguing particular artists were affected by vision disorders, based on signs in their works. Some argued the leaders of the Impressionist movement were short-sighted, for instance, and that their blurry distance vision when not using spectacles may explain their broad, impetuous style.
Supporting evidence of such disorders and their influence on artworks is often speculative, and hampered by a lack of clinical records to support the diagnosis. A particular challenge to verifying these speculations is that artists are, of course, free to represent the world in whatever fashion they like.
So, is a particular style the result of impoverished vision, or rather a conscious artistic choice made by the artist? Here are three artists who it has been claimed suffered vision impairments.