Was Van Gogh Color Blind?

Vincent Van Gogh is to artists what the Titanic is to shipwrecks, what Mozart is to classical musicians (after Amadeus – before that it would have been Beethoven), what Charlie Chaplin is to silent film stars, what Mark Twain is to great American writers.  It’s the one name that people who don’t know much know.

Van Gogh, self portrait

The subject of my ire today is this article.  They suspect that Van Gogh may have had a sort of color blindness called protanopia, because they ran his paintings through their Chromatic Vision Simulator, adjusted  for what a person with protanopia would have seen and, voila, they looked almost exactly the same.

I have two problems with this:  1) Even though it may be true (obviously this guy knows more about the science of vision than I do) it’s the most back-assward application of messed up logic heard in recent memory outside of the context of Republican politics. and 2) Isn’t poor pathetic Vincent’s life well documented enough?  I mean, I like Van Gogh, I enjoyed my tour of the Van Gogh museum when I was in Amsterdam many years ago, and his life story makes a compelling, albeit tragic, tale.  But this seems to be speculation for speculation’s sake.  Whether or not it’s true will not change the quality of his artworks, or the story of his life.


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