Saturday, February 25, 2017

On Van Gogh's yellow effect

First time when I saw Van Gogh's famous painting "starry night" at the museum of modern art in NY city, I was perplexed with the use of yellow colors around stars. Later, I learned this has been questioned by many many people. If you see series of his paintings you will find the use of yellow color at unusual places like grass, wheatfield (his obsession), walls (cafe terrace and yellow house).

This yellow effect is more prominent in the year 1888 and somewhat till his suicide in 1890. This boggled analysts for many many years and many different theories have been proposed. Over years, I  read here and there about his paintings and being a physician, answer to his use of yellow color was very interesting to me.

Van Gogh suffered from a severe manic-depressive disease. He once self-mutilated his left ear, was admitted to an asylum, drew his self-portrait with the bandage over the mutilated ear as he unsuccessfully fought hard to understand and cure his disease and eventually committed suicide in 1890 (though some believe he was killed). Popular drug of the twentieth century to cure manic-depressive disease lithium was unavailable at his time and drug of choice was heart medicine digitalis (dig), as neurons respond in a similar fashion as myocardium to various drugs. It may be of interest to know that phenytoin (a drug for epilepsy) was initially invented as a heart medicine.

Digitalis has a unique side effect of producing yellowish hue in vision, and probability is that yellow effects in his paintings are due to 'dig', particularly at a specific time period of his life when he was very sick. It is documented that he was treated with digitalis.

For a long time, I wondered about colors of life in any human due to his disease state both in physiological and psychological terms. Also, effects of medicines and disease process itself to state of minds, as they carve all facets of human relationships, expressions, failures as well as successes.

Undekhi quwattoN ke ghere main
Insaan phir bhi, kaTherey main
(Despite surrounded by unseen forces, human still get judged)


mehnaz said...
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mehnaz said...

Sylvia plath was a great poet,and was suffering from a mental illness too. These lines of hers came to mind while reading your post:
"This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue..........
.....And the message of the yew tree is blackness – blackness and silence"
I wonder if she saw the images in her mind in the very colors she described them in (or was it imagination?)

Mystic said...

Life stays strange for many

bsc said...

It was after my retirement that I started investigating about Brain and its function as related to "self" in search of what we know as free will.
Then I discovered that when the brain sees a "color" it has a deeper significance attached to the meaning and human experience of a color. To tell you the truth at first I was confused reading about "red color"
The Brain of Self, is a kind of a book written by a famous Neurologist (Australian and Believer in God) and a famous philosopher (an atheist)
I thought there was too much philosophy in it and my brain is kind of un-philosophical

mystic said...

Uncle: "Then I discovered that when the brain sees a "color" it has a deeper significance attached to the meaning and human experience of a color" - This is something new to me

mehnaz said...

Dear uncle, how I wish we could understand that "deeper significance .... if its not zehmat for you....Im very intrigued.

bsc said...

This is somewhat difficult for me to put in words and it is here I feel inadequate in my expressive ability but I will try.
Sir John Eccles (a student of Sherington) is writing the Brain's associated activities as they develop after 'birth'. Because no "area" of brain is isolated and so when we see a color red it tell the brain not just the color but its effects also as we know what red color stands for and how it strikes the eyes and what it means in liquid form what it means in solid form etc.. Thinking about this an old movie came to my mind. Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Marnie" actually is of "red color" problem of the heroine, not a well-known actress but hero is no other than our OO7 yes Sean Connery. The girl would get excited at the sight of red color and it was in her childhood history she had killed an attacker and saw his blood flowing out
So what it indicates in our language we call basaarat but there is baseerat also (Just as an example)Have I made sense?

mehnaz said...

Dear uncle, thanks. Yes I did-but got more questions :) now. I will mail you.