Ken Lyen's Home
About
Ken's Links
Hakkas
London Revisited 2000
Letter from London 2006
Singapore Musical Theatre
Making the Grade
Exodus
Other
Writing Musicals
Musicals from Movies
Fred Ebb
The Story of Chess
Mama Mia
Bad Vibrations
Chestnuts 2003
Chestnuts 2004
Chestnuts 2005
Incubating New Musicals
List of Musicals on Film
Is Musical Theatre Dead?
Is Classical Music Dead?
Is Poetry Dead?
Why Read Poetry?
Etymology
New Words
Cull
Nothing's Wrong
Hippie Dictionary
Singlish Dictionary
Blog Dictionary
Best of the Best
English Spoke
Bilingualism
Reading in Decline
Too Many Books
Magic of Reading
Pablo Neruda
Graphic Novels
Writers Bar
Lost For Words
Encyclopedia Wars
Library in Cyberspace
The Bridge
Growing A Film Industry
Critics
Great Levellers
Rote Rites and Rongs
Beautiful Minds
Intelligence
Creativity
Create Talented Individuals?
Rise of the Creative Class
Perchance to Dream
Children's EQ
Gifted Education
Gifted Children
Mozart Effect
Confucius and Multiple Intelligences
Predicting Your Future
Mistyping Personality
Messy Homes
Does Age Matter?
Too Young for Philosophy?
Philosopher for Hire
Deconstructing Derrida
University Quotas
Ranking Universities
University Ranking Continued
The Future of Universities
If Thine Eye Offends Thee
If It Ain't Broke
New Exams for Old!
Too Many Test
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Childhood Memories
Voluntarism
Signs of Success
Follow Your Dreams
First Impressions
Handphone Etiquette
Handphones Silenced
Nanotechnology
Apple Of My i
Sex and the Media
The Greeks
Geographic Clangers
Domino Theory
Hello Kitty
Heels on Wheels
What a Racket!
Potty Training
Skip to the Loo
Corporal Punishment
Is Modern Art Rubbish?
Mona Lisa Grins
Vermeer
Sunday in the Park
Vision and Art
Fake
Gmail
Spam Glorious Spam!
Humble Pie
Sour Grapes?
Murphy's Law Calculator
Perfect Search
False Logic
Noah's Ark
Who Discovered America?
Palaces of Dictators
Queues
Backup
Joys of Stress
Games Academics Play
Virtual Reality Treatmemt
Autism
Autistic Underconnectivity
Asperger Syndrome
Pay Attention!
Attention Deficit
Dyslexia
Speech Delay
Almost Normal
Prozac Nation
Gilles de la Tourette
Singapore Medicine
Ignorance
Virtual Dissection
War Against Malaria
Into the Frying Pan
Back to Methuselah
Poetic Medicine
Cigarettes
Far Eastern Economic Review
History of the Singapore Musical
My Research
Singapore Idle
Best Countries
Brain Drain
Greatest Happiness
Remaking Singapore
Singapore Nobel Prize
Singapore MRT Map
National Day
Caste System
Doctors' Fees
Leadership and Teambuilding
Doctor Do-Much
Interview
Play it Again, Doc
A Dose of Music
Prescription for the Heart
Multiple Personality
Sayang
Fly By Night
Muggle
Rape of Nanking
Iris Chang
Anne Frank
Angela's Ashes
The Notebook
Hollywood Insider
Fahrenheit 9/11 Pirates
The Front
The Barbarian Invasions
Les Choristes
The Return
Road Home
Shower
2046
Farewell My Concubine
So You Want to be a Nurse
Roulette
Fences
School House Rockz
Makan Place
e-mail me

Vision and Art


 

Vision and Art

 by Kenneth Lyen

The French artist, Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) once said that "The source of genius is imagination alone, the refinement of the senses that sees what others do not see, or sees them differently." Great artists have this gift of seeing what we see, but differently.

Why is this so?

There is a mundane explanation doled out by doctors and scientists. They suggest that the reason why artists see things differently, is because they have something wrong with their eyesight.

My first reaction to this is to ask, why aren’t all of us with eyesight problems, artists? Duh!

Professor Noel Dan, a neurosurgeon, wrote in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, suggesting that Impressionist painters like Monet, Renoir and Degas, were all short-sighted. Hence their paintings were a blur. He said that myopia "can explain the characteristic soft lines, lack of detail and the vibrant color of their works." He added, "Another consequence of myopia is an emphasis on red, as the blue end of the visual spectrum is focused shorter than the red, resulting in the myopic seeing red more clearly than blues." Apparently, artists like Cézanne and Renoir refused to wear spectacles.

Art historians have denounced this theory as being too ludicrous, stating that "artists know exactly why they are doing what they are doing." They do not need to be short-sighted to paint out-of-focus images. Does Professor Dan really mean it when he suggests that every one of the impressionist painters were myopic?

Undeterred by such criticisms, Margaret Livingstone, a neurobiologist, and her collaborator Bevil Conway, both from the Harvard Medical School, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine of 16 September 2004, that the Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), suffered from a problem with three-dimensional depth perception. They came to this conclusion by showing that in 23 out of 24 self-portraits, he painted himself with a divergent squint. This may have been present from birth, and as medical technology of that period was not sufficiently advanced to correct it surgically, the result would be a "lazy eye," which means a loss of stereoscopic vision. Livingstone said, "An inability to see the world with normal depth perception can be an advantage to an artist, who must flatten a view to render it accurately." Indeed, you may have observed that many painters squint or close one eye when they are painting.

The problem for me is that I find it difficult to believe that an inability to perceive depth can enhance one’s painting abilities. Are we going overboard to ascribe disabilities too readily to anybody with talent? Indeed, must we have a disability in order to be talented?

You might extend the argument to other disciplines. Are musicians better musicians if they have a disability like deafness, which inflicted Ludwig van Beethoven and Gabriel Fauré, or blindness, which affected Frederick Delius, Joaquin Rodrigo, and Ray Charles?

Or are writers better writers if they were afflicted with, say, dyslexia, as Edgar Allen Poe is said to have suffered? At this juncture, I wish to state that I'm against labeling long-dead people with fashionable diseases like dyslexia, attention deficit, or bipolar disorder, because there is no way you can prove whether you are right or wrong. We should stop ascribing diseases to Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and other geniuses.

I would suggest that out of a cohort of creative people, there will inevitably be a small minority who, by chance, may happen to suffer from a disease. Aren't we blowing it out of all proportion to say that these diseases are critical to the artist’s genius?

Admittedly it is very tempting to dish out some diagnoses. For example, when you look at Picasso’s distorted pictures of women, wouldn’t you want to suggest that he suffered from astigmatism?!