Cataract Effect on Color

A couple of months ago I went through cataract surgery, first on my right eye, then a month later on my left eye. While this upset my vision because my glasses prescription was no longer valid for the right eye, so I removed the lens because the surgery practically returned my focusing like it was when I was much younger. Being 83, I never noticed the shift in color vision over the last few decades and kept producing art work as I had all my life. I was told by a friend that there would be a difference in the colors of my work, but I didn’t think it would be as noticeable as it was.

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The gray scale/color swatch that I use when copying art work, shows the slight color cast

I decided to see if I could make some sort of a record of the difference in color perception between my two eyes in the month that my left eye retained the yellow/brown crystalized lens. By opening a file in Photoshop and bringing up two images of it, I would close either eye and try to adjust the color of the left image by shifting it with a yellow/brown filter layer. It was hard to get right as I picked all sort of images that people would encounter in their pre cataract surgery experience. The color shift was usually subtle but noticeable now that I have lived with new glasses and better focusing of images on the monitor.

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I was astonished that how the shades of blue were diminished by cataracts 

What the consequence of cataracts means to artists and gallery viewers has not been a subject for art historians or artists in general. The only information I can find on the Internet is work done by an ophthalmologist, Michael Marmor at Stanford University; with links to his and other interesting articles listed farther on. The major articles seem to refer to Dr. Marmor in some way and seem to be written after his first article appeared in 2008. Dr. Marmor probably used Photoshop to manipulate Monet and Degas works as we see them, into what the artist might have seen with their inferior eyesight. Some Internet sites mention other artist with visual problems, including Mary Cassatt and others.

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An early acrylic landscape done when I had no cataracts

In fact Claude Monet destroyed some of his later work when he saw them with the one eye when the was cataract removed. Edgar Degas first noticed his failing eyesight at age 39 and was unable to read by age 57. They both wrote extensively about their problem.


How much bluer the right eye responded to the color in nature

When I got my last prescription for glasses, the doctor insisted I start taking Omega 3 to prevent macular degeneration that can destroy ones vision as we get older. A much younger goldsmithing friend had to give up the craft because of macular degeneration and no longer drives as well. Apparently early humans became intelligent apes because of the Omega 3 they found in bone marrow and animal brains – things most of us no longer consume. That is consistent with one program in the brain series on Charlie Rose, where the specialists say humans no longer get enough Omega 3 that lets the signals move across the junctions within our brains, causing dementia, etc. Why fish is considered brain food. Considering that the eye is just another part of the brain with connections, it seems like a good idea.

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A waterless lithograph print, editioned in 1994

These are some interesting sites to visit to get the pictures used to show how much the colors have changed in Claude Monet and Edgar Degas later work and their concern. I thought it better for you to see the images on the sites they were originally posted, leaving my comparative images on my blog.

http://med.stanford.edu/nbc/articles/10%20-%20Ophthalmology%20and%20Art%20-%20Simulation%20of%20Monet%27s%20Cataracts%20and%20Degas%20Retinal%20Disease.pdf

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/april11/med-optart-041107.html

http://www.psych.ucalgary.ca/pace/va-lab/avde-website/degas.html

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