One of the things I've learned by reading a book on art, and then wandering around various art museums looking at the very art that was pictured in the book, is that paint is different from ink or pixels. You can look at a poster print of a famous painting all you want, but you still haven't seen the painting. Paint has color and texture and light-catching qualities that defy easy reproduction.
For example, I wrote an essay on Vermeer when I was in high school. Then I went to see some Vermeers. And, frankly, "View of Delft" is not very interesting in print, even if you see it reproduced in the correct size, but in person "View of Delft" is amazing. It has atmosphere. And across the room from "View of Delft" in the Mauritshuis is "Girl With A Pearl Earring", an absolutely ubiquitous work, reproduced on book covers and posters everywhere, but I can't look at those posters anymore, they are hopelessly flat and dull. The actual "Girl With A Pearl Earring" is far more beautiful.
If you've seen the originals, there is a 3D quality that is also lost. He had a way of sculpting the paint on the canvas, which I've never seen in any reproduction.
Conclusion: illuminating a reproduction under different light, or processing a reproduction (an image file) in a computer, will not necessarily give you an accurate representation of what the original would look like. We need more information to know if what they saw in that light room is actually what the original would look like under that light. The same goes for the examples on the page.
Those paintings that seem to consist of just one black line on a field of white? They make sense in person. (Hint: Just because it's notionally a field of white doesn't mean it isn't made of seventy-five overlapping layers of slightly different shades of white paint. Just because it's notionally a black line doesn't mean the line is uniform.)
That said, I did think it was interesting how for instance in the sunflowers, there are a few highly-saturated parts (the centers of the flowers) that pop in the originals, but blend into maybe a more coherent image in the version with the color deficiency simulation.
van Gogh famously wrote in a letter to his brother Theo: "Paintings fade like flowers... All the colors that impressionism has brought into fashion are unstable, so there is all the more reason to simply use them too brightly - time will tone them down only too much".
Any theory of color vision deficiency that attempts to reconstruct the color balances that van Gogh actually saw should take into account the hue/value/chroma of his paints such as they possessed when originally applied, and also consider that van Gogh intentionally adjusted his aesthetic to render color schemes in expectation of future pigment degradation, and that these adjustments cannot have been an exact science.
- In The Harvest, I immediately look to the farmer in the newer version.
- In Starry Night, I immediately look to the church in the new version, instead of the moon.
- Likewise, in The Road Menders and The Sower I look at the people more, and the trees and sun less.
- In the Cafe Terrace at Night, I immediately look to the server in the new version, instead of the yellow lighted wall in the original.
I noticed I measure the person and their posture much more readily. I can now, in my mind, recall the posture of most of these people: the server is erect, the sower is slightly bent and tired, the farmer in the harvest is steadily working, if slightly hurriedly, and in The Road Menders the two nun-looking characters in the back are somewhat tired as if on a weekend.
What I learned from this isn't "van Gogh had a color deficiency," but the way in which color can affect the mood of a painting in really subtle ways I hadn't considered.
In the best case, on a wide gamut panel, these are very rude approximations of what you might see under the unnatural lighting experienced by the author. It should not be taken as any kind of diagnostic.
If you have e.g. a 6 bit TN panel, all of these are going to look very similar, before anomalous vision is even involved.
Of course, this is art, and it's not truly possible for either of us to be 'wrong'. Taking a new perspective on Van Gogh's art is itself interesting, so this is a great read, even if I disagree with some of his conclusions.
I wonder if any other famous artists saw their work differently than the rest of us?
If you have problems with this word then it may help to think of it as De[finite]ly - and tie that in your mind to "finite" meaning "measurable".
(Sorry to be a spelling nazi but the use of the 'a' in defiantly indicates this is not a typo.)
Ludwig van Beethoven's hearing started to deteriorate early on and eventually he became completely deaf though he continued to compose.
Of course there has to be a substantial difference between losing a sense or never to have had it but we don't know whether Van Gogh's altered vision was there from birth or the alteration happened later in his life.
I agree with both of you, most of the pictures lose a lot of character and uniqueness in the "corrected" versions; though one or two of them gain an incredibly realistic feeling of ambiance.
Better or not? Shouldn't even be the question - but it is an interesting theory and result!
Along those lines, John Eliot Gardiner conducted Beethoven's 9 Symphonies with Beethoven's metronome markings and with instruments that would have been used at that time period. It's a very different sound that I'm a huge fan of, though I think it wasn't particularly embraced by traditionalists.
The tinge of green in the original portrait makes this man much harder to approach, because it adds the psychotic, unusual aura to the picture. This man has left the world of commonly shared human experience.
The author remarks that in the picture The Road Menders the trees have a strange color and after conversion look more solid, giving some depth to the road. So the picture looks more like what we would expect, in other words: we see the usual.
But this is contrary to the kind of psychotic perception of the world, which I associate with van Gogh's paintings, at least with those paintings that we would call typical van Gogh (there are paintings from the earlier dutch period, which have a different character): Reality is distorted, colors deviate from the ordinary, everything is flowing together and swirling, the wheat, the sky, the world. Proportions are deranged, look at the painting of his bedroom for example:
Theo van Gogh, his brother, wrote 1889 in a letter to his future wife a characterization of Vincent van Gogh: "As you know, he has broken since a long time with everything what we call convention. The style of his clothes and his behaviour show that this is a special human, and since many years people who see him will say: This is a madman."
He is specifically mentioned in this article on adverse wise effects of digoxin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digoxin#Adverse_effects
Contrast is the key here. Red for example is a very dark color. That's why they use to print secret documents on red paper. When you would copy such document with a copier it would become completely black.
Some of the altered pictures look nice in the same way that greyscaling a photo creates a pleasingly different expression, but generally, as for myself, I get impression that content has been stripped.
So I assume this is working.
(I did a wall mural once involving a large green sea monster; I had a friend tell me when the shadows were getting red so I could compensate back to "normal-brown" - they all looked fine to me.)
Edit : Oh shit. Hi Greg. Fucking genetics. It's Dad fault.
If Van Gogh saw colors the way they are in the converted pictures why would he use two different colors that would look identical to him?
So perhaps a better question is, how would you mix the same color twice, if you couldn't tell a range of colors apart?
If he was colour blind surely there would be patches of green and patches of non-green instead of smooth colour. How could he possibly match the same colours over and over again each time he mixed his paints if he couldn't tell the difference?
I'm not an expert in oil painting technique, but I think one possibility is, you tend to overpaint an area at a time. So: mix some paint, layer up part of the canvas. Come back later, mix some paint, do it again.
If that's how it works it would explain a bunch of things in the comparison images. Like: how come the bridge is yellow, but its reflection in the river is bright green? Maybe they were painted at different times.
I think that's what you see in a lot of the pictures. Look at the green in the coat in the self-portrait. What appears as distinct lines of green in the normal color version becomes muted in the modified color version and blends in much more with the other colors, but with just enough difference to lend a rich texture to the coat.
It's also several times more common to be green-deficient than it is to be missing that cone entirely.
I can understand mixing them, or using first one then the other (after you run out of one) - but shading the image partly with one color and parts with another?
The only conclusion is that they were not identical to him, and this software is not correctly showing us what he saw.
While this article doesn't remotely prove that this is what's happened, it seems like a possibility to me.
A partially color-blind artist has no reason to amplify is dimmed color to "correct" his perceptual deficit. His brain is calibrated on his usual input. Even if his perception of (say) red is diminished, an image with the red channel amplified will look more red to him too.
As a color blind myself, I see absolutely no difference between the original and the modified images. They are 100% identical to me. So I already see them as Van Gogh did. But if you can see a difference then this proves that this experiment works.
A beautiful, inspiring critique if you have the time for it.
I'm having said cataract removed this Friday, so I'll have to check this again next week and see how things have changed. I'm very curious to see what the difference will be. The progressive worsening of my vision over the past year has been so gradual that it's sometimes hard to quantify just how much things like my ability to see color and contrast has changed.
Not sure whether that's my deuteranomaly talking or if it's his small pictures.
"""Finally I feel that van Gogh’s astounding qualities are available to me."""
I've often felt that nerds (including myself here) shouldn't be allowed near artistically expressive mediums and equipment, such as cameras, because we nerd them up way too much and miss the whole point. And this quote just sums up what i mean. :S A minuscule colour shift reveals Van Gogh's genius? NOPE.
It's interesting to look at real life through color deficient eyes.
OT but I really like that blog theme, very clean and easy to read
You can only appreciate Van Gogh if you can make his color choices more "normal"? So you'd only appreciate Picasso if you could use photoshop to reconstruct his paintings?
Take the work as it is. Attempt to understand it on its own terms. That is how you grow as a person.
Now I'm confused.