Frequently Asked Questions Van Gogh's Health

Van Gogh’s Vision

Starry Night, The - Vincent van GoghWe 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.

Portrait of Doctor Gachet - Vincent van GoghVan 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.


  1. Was Van Gogh nearsighted?

    Maybe he had some of the problems mentioned above.

    But maybe things just appeared swirly and fuzzed out because he couldn’t see them sharply.

    So he develops his vision into his wonderful swirly paintings…

  2. I like this blog. There are many interesting things about Van Gogh and his Oil Paintings. Most websites just repeat the same information, but there is plenty of original content in your blog. I will continue to read more on here, thanks.

  3. No matter who had the disease, but why was painting, I love all his works in particular those based on blue colors such as Starry Night and made all dark.

    I love Van Gogh because it breaks all the paint schemes based solely on their ideals.

    I love!!!!!!!!!

  4. I believe he was nearsighted. When I’m walking down the street with no glasses on at night, street lamps resemble starry starry night. In his time, stars would have been brighter because cities didn’t have as much light pollution and so he might have seen stars the same way I see street lights.

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