Was Van Gogh colorblind?

blog-jason - van-gogh-color-compare

It’s tempting to assume that we all perceive things in the same way: the sounds we hear, the flavors we taste, the colors we see.

In an overall general sense, this seems to be the case: we can interpret the same sounds (though maybe not agree on the same music), identify similar tastes, and read similar images. There are obvious exceptions: those who can’t hear, taste, or see; and there are the more subtle distinctions. My father can’t hear high pitch noises. My good friend absolutely hates cilantro (which is crazy because it tastes so good!). And 7-10%(!) of the male population is colorblind.

With so much of the population affected by some degree of color blindness (or, as it’s more precisely coined, color vision deficiency), it becomes an important consideration in visual design.

What hadn’t occurred to me before, though, is the possibility of great artists being influenced by color vision deficiency.

In this enlightening blog post, the influence is considered in the works of Vincent Van Gogh. By applying a “Chromatic Vision Simulator”, we can approximate the appearance of his paintings to a colorblind eye. The results are compelling. In hindsight, this makes sense. His paintings tend to use surprising, otherworldly color combinations. But when seen through the simulator, the colors are quite realistic.

If you’re interested in applying this simulation to your own life, you can download the simulator to your mobile device.

Jason Nolin was an illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio from 2010-2013.