Impressionist painters were just short-sighted

The changed look. On the influence of visual defects on art and character

Patrick Trevor-Roper's study "The changed view" does not come from the first decade of our new millennium, but was published as early as 1970. However, only in Great Britain, the country that rolls out red carpets for its eccentrics, which is why the reviews of the ophthalmologist - i.e. an ophthalmologist, not a psychiatrist - are much more discreet. Nevertheless, he wants to prove something, namely that visual defects, from strabismus to myopia, from color blindness to cataracts, are not trivial for those affected. And he proves it with the same clientele as Lange-Eichbaum: the above average, the gifted, the sensitive. In short, to those people who used to be given the title "ingenious" - when it didn't sound undemocratic and disreputable.

In the case of painters, it is naturally easy to provide evidence. That Albrecht Dürer squinted can be seen not only in his self-portraits, but also in the famous image of his mother, whose misaligned eyes Dürer obviously inherited. The Impressionists' shortsightedness is also a commonplace. It was enough for Renoir to take a few steps back without glasses, and he was already perceiving conventional paintings in an almost impressionistic way, and Çezanne has passed down the exclamation: "Take these vulgar things away!" When he was offered glasses. The more complicated the misalignment of the eye, the more serious the impact on the image structure. The curvature error of the cornea in astigmatism influences the composition, as Trevor-Roper demonstrates in his volume, which is equipped with a wealth of images. If you photograph pictures of El Greco, Holbein or Lucas Cranach through a corrective lens, the effect of the image changes amazingly: The body proportions of the people depicted - for example in the famous portrait of Henry the Eighth - become distorted and become more natural.

It becomes more difficult with the ametropia of poets. Their metaphorical language does not necessarily follow the handicap of the eyes, although Trevor-Roper tries to get evidence from myopic and color-blind authors. The change becomes comprehensible only after the total loss of sight: blind authors write differently than sighted authors, and those who are blind from birth differently than those who have retained an idea of ​​the visual world. The British ophthalmologist describes the interplay of the senses - and the evolutionary dominance of the eye - vividly and plausibly. His talent for clarity only leaves him where specific clinical pictures of his department are involved. What remains beyond the bizarre collection of cases after reading it, the London Times put right after its first publication with British understatement: You cannot read this book without gain for your own conversation. So let's astonish at the next party with the aperçu that moving boxes that are painted green are subjectively easier to carry than black. The bystanders will be grateful.