How Failing Vision Impacted Impressionist Art
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How Failing Vision Impacted Impressionist Art

Have you ever looked at a Monet painting and noticed the changes in his style as he got older? Or how about Degas? Both famous artists suffered from failing vision, which impacted their artistic style in later years. Monet had cataracts, which affected his ability to discriminate between colors—possibly explaining the “muddied” look in his paintings from 1912 to 1923, when he had a cataract removed. When his vision improved, it’s reported that he destroyed many of the paintings he made when his vision was poor.

Degas (1834-1917) may have had progressive retinal disease that caused central (macular) damage, causing visual blurring. The changes in Degas’ art were more pronounced than with Monet’s. Degas’ early works featured precisely drawn subjects with great attention to detail, while his later works (from the 1880s on) began to show signs of less and less refinement.

The Archives of Opthamology published a simulation of what the world looked like through these two painters’ eyes. It’s interesting to think about how these artists’ work would have been different if they lived in modern times. On the other hand, there’s something beautiful in seeing how their art reflected their own physical journey.