The Day I Saw Van Gogh’s Genius in a New Light
Was Van Gogh partially colorblind? Kanzunori Asada reflects on his enlightening Van Gogh observation:
The “Color Vision Experience Room” uses illumination filtered by an optical filter — providing a modified spectrum of light. In this room, the person who has normal color vision sees color the same as the person who has protan or deutan color vision. These types of color deficiency mean that certain color combinations are difficult to differentiate. I was impressed by the effort and thought that had made this room a reality.
I was able to view various items in the room, and it turned out that experiencing modified color vision by the naked eye had a stronger impact than experiencing it on a computer display in simulation. This was a revelation to me.
There were prints of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in the room. 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 a wonderful experience.