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Colour yellow and how it influences the human conscience

Van Gogh, a Dutch painter from the 19th century, famous for his works like The Starry Night, Irises, Wheatfield with Crows, and others, has been noted for his striking use of the colour yellow in his works. His paintings are beautiful, vivid and bright. His own life, however, has been full of tragedy, ending in an ultimate self-destructive act of suicide at the young age of 37 years. He died of too much ‘yellow’.

Over the years, more than a hundred different physicians have ventured into stating a diagnosis for his medical condition. The diagnoses have varied from mental disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, neurosyphilis, interictaldysphoric disorder to physical conditions like sunstroke, acute intermittent porphyria, temporal lobe epilepsy precipitated by the use of absinthe in the presence of an early limbic lesion, to Ménière’s disease. He was admitted to Saint-Rémy in 1889, under the care of Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, and was most likely prescribed digitalis to him, whatever his then diagnosis must have been. It was this digitalis that was quite probably responsible for the beauty of his works, for all the yellow.

Xanthopsia is an overriding yellow bias in vision. The yellow bias has been strikingly visible in Van Gogh’s works. For example the starry sky in The Starry Night, the leaves in The Mulberry Tree, the fields in The Wheatfield with Crows, the sky in The Olive Tree, the striking shades in the Bedroom in Arles and The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, and so many more. Regular use of digitalis is one of the known causes of Xanthopsia.

The yellow, however, didn’t just bring the beauty to his life; it brought a whole lot of sad feeling as well, or well, rather brought along a wishful being. The colour yellow has been known to represent happiness since forever, and it is this happiness that he longed for, that he wanted, that he craved for. Craving, he did something quite crazy; he started to eat yellow paint. Sometimes one is in such a sad place that the craziest ideas also seem appealing, and probably such was his case. He wanted to feel happy so desperately that he ate paint, yellow paint, trying to get the happiness inside of him.

He painted his canvases yellow, and when that didn’t help much, he tried to paint the walls of his internal organs yellow; trying to feel the happiness. Yellow paint, of course, had lead in it, and that contributed to his bad health and worsening condition over time, until his death.

What he did back then, could certainly be termed as totally berserk, but when you look at it from a distance, it is really not much different from alcoholism or drugs, and hundreds of people are addicted to those. Everyone, I believe, has their ‘colour yellow’ which helps them chase the Dragon named happiness.

Comment ( 1 )

  1. Great article. Enlightening words.

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