Friday, April 27, 2007

Impressionist Painters

After my visit to MOMA in New York last month, my niece sent me this link this article "A New Look at Impressionists’ Failing Vision" by Nicholas Bakalar in the New York Times about recent research that connects speculation on actual vision questions of the French Impressionist painters to their art. Bakalar quotes and links to an opthamologist on the subject:

And in Degas’s work, the shading lines and details of the faces became increasingly blurred as his disease, probably a form of macular degeneration, progressed over 20 years. A French critic called his later sketches “the tragic witnesses of the battle of the artist against his infirmity.”

In a recent article in The Archives of Ophthalmology, Dr. Michael F. Marmor, a professor of ophthalmology at Stanford, used computer simulations to create images of what these artists might have seen as their vision declined.

“Here we can see ourselves what they were seeing through their eyes,” Dr. Marmor said. “Critics have known that these men had failing vision, but I don’t think they could appreciate what it meant to these artists. It gives both new respect for what they could do with limited vision, but also gives us reason to re-examine perhaps what these paintings mean in the evolution of these artists’ style and work.”

Because I majored in Art History at Bryn Mawr years ago and loved, as many do, the work of the Impressionist painters, this perspective is both intriguing and maybe saddening, to think that maybe their genius was "only" (?) the result of vision problems.



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