We have had some recent inquiries about Van Gogh’s vision and how it influenced his art work. Van Gogh’s vision problems could be attributed to several factors. It is thought that Van Gogh suffered from lead poisoning from all of the lead-based paints that he used. One of the symptoms of lead poisoning is swelling of the retinas which can cause one to see light in circles like halos around objects. This can be seen in paintings like The Starry Night.
Van Gogh also suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy and was thought to have been treated by his doctor, Dr. Gachet, with a drug called digitalis. Digitalis comes from the foxglove plant and can be seen laying in front of Dr. Gachet in Van Gogh’s Portrait of Doctor Gachet. This drug can cause one to see in yellow or see yellow spots which could explain Van Gogh’s consistent use of the color yellow in his later works.
To learn more about the different theories on Van Gogh’s vision and how it influenced his work check out “Colored visions? – The pharmacological history of Van Gogh” from New Science Magazine or learn more about Van Gogh’s health.