Art, science collide
The chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Methodist Hospital presented a world where science and art collide to make something unique and powerful, and he explored how much of that art is science, and how much is experimentation.
Doctor Richard Fish presented the lecture as an optometrist and as a lover of art. His lecture, The Eye: Ocular Diseases and Visual Artists, showcased famous artists and how their works might have been influenced by ocular diseases.
“Many people think that impressionists suffered myopia (nearsighted),” Fish said. “But when you look at some of their earlier work, you can see that it’s very clear and has plenty of detail so it’s much more likely that they were just experimenting with technique.”
That wasn’t the case for some artists, though. Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt suffered from cataracts later in life that impaired their work. Fish presented their work before cataracts and as the disease progressed. The vibrant colors and rich detail were lost to muddy reds and simple sketching.
“Genius is genius, whether or not it’s been impaired by some loss,” Fish said. “Beethoven wrote his last symphony when he was deaf and had to imagine what it would sound like. That’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment.”
Artists like Charles Meryon and Paul Henry were red/green color deficient but this didn’t prevent them from creating paintings. Meryon did black and white sketches and Henry painted in blues, yellows and browns. Edvard Munch’s left eye hemorrhaged, but he simply drew things the way he saw them.
As a retinal surgeon, Fish said that he, and many of his colleagues, consider themselves artists. They use color to help identify the area of the eye that needs the surgery. Retinal surgeon’s primarily use white, blue and green, and Fish described how different artists used those colors and how those colors are used in his profession.
Fish encouraged the people in the audience to experience the art in person instead of looking at it through a monitor, which he said will help them gain a better appreciation of the work each artist put into their piece.
“Go see art. The internet can’t do justice to seeing the masterpieces in person. So much detail gets lost that you can’t experience them the way the artists painted them.”