Vision Loss and Visual Arts
It’s easy to think that “blindness” and “visual arts” don’t belong in the same sentence – after all, a painting or photograph is something that requires sight both to make and to consume, right? Wrong! People with blindness or low vision today are active in the arts both professionally and as hobbyists in media like painting, photography, sculpture, digital art, and more. Experiencing art is also becoming more possible every day for people with visual impairment, as new technologies and multi-sensory exhibits make the museum experience more inclusive.
But this isn’t just a product of our technological age – history also has many examples of artists who created masterpieces despite or even because of vision problems. For instance, did you know that Edgar Degas’ vision began to deteriorate due to retinal disease when he was in his thirties and continued to decline throughout his life? Art historians speculate that his choice of subject matter, those famous backstage scenes of the ballet and opera, may have been influenced by the fact that he was sensitive to sunlight and preferred working indoors and in low light conditions. Additionally, many of Degas’ masterworks were painted later in his life, when his vision loss was quite advanced. This means that his unique artistic vision may be at least in part a product of his, well, vision!
For three more famous artists with vision loss plus some great tips and resources for getting and keeping your creative juices flowing with blindness or low vision, check out article from Vision Aware: Continue Painting with Vision Loss
Image: Edgar Degas’ Two Dancers, c. 1898, a work in pastel, which Degas switched to later in life as it required less precision than oil painting
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