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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Great artists 'were short-sighted'
Detail of Renoir's Au Moulin de la Gallete
Renoir was among those with myopia, the study says

Some of the greatest works of the Impressionist painters may have been achieved as a result of poor eyesight, scientists have said.

Artists such as Monet, Renoir and Degas suffered myopia or short-sightedness which may have influenced their painting style, according to a study.

Professor Noel Dan, an Australian neurosurgeon, said there may have been a "chance coming together" of myopic artists who saw the world in a similar way.

But one leading figure has dismissed the report as "rubbish".

Reported in the Daily Mail, Professor Dan said: "They were looking at things slightly blurred and Impressionism does, in a sense, flow on from this."

Detail from CÚzanne's Pichet Et Assiette De Poires
CÚzanne's vision was also affected, says the report

Professor Dan's findings are documented in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

He says that the painters' eye problems may also explain why they tended to heavily use particular colours such as red.

CÚzanne, Pissarro, Matisse and Rodin were among the other Impressionists identified as suffering from myopia.

Professor Dan said the condition may explain the characteristic soft lines, lack of detail and vibrant colour of the works.

Visual spectrum

"Myopic or short-sighted individuals see objects near to them, such as the canvas, but have a blurred vision of more distant structures," he told the Mail.

"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."

He said there were records showing that CÚzanne and Renoir had rejected spectacles.

The report also suggested that cataracts could affect the colour choice of artists.

However, one art historian dismissed the theory as "rubbish".

Professor John House, of the Courtald Institute of Art in London, said: "The painting is all so very self-consciously aware and deliberately conscious of what it is doing.

"The artists know exactly why they are doing what they are doing."

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