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ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Impact of Cataract on the Later Paintings of William Turner Sibylle Scholtz 1, Gerd U. Auffarth 2 1 Institute for History of Medicine,

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Presentation on theme: "ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Impact of Cataract on the Later Paintings of William Turner Sibylle Scholtz 1, Gerd U. Auffarth 2 1 Institute for History of Medicine,"— Presentation transcript:

1 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Impact of Cataract on the Later Paintings of William Turner Sibylle Scholtz 1, Gerd U. Auffarth 2 1 Institute for History of Medicine, 2 University Eye Clinic, University Heidelberg, Germany Introduction William Turner was one of the most famous artists; his paintings inspired generations of painters and viewers. The changes in style of his later paintings can be interpreted as the effect of proceeding cataract(1, 2, 3, 4). This poster shows the influence of cataract progression in the work of William Turner. Joseph Mallord William Turner, self portrait (circa 1799) 0 No financial interests

2 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Introduction As one of the most famous painters of Romanticism William Tuner is world wide known for his paintings of sky, light and water – he is commonly known as the “painter of light”(5, 6, 8). He left more than paintings to the British State by which we can follow the development and progression of his cataract (10, 11). Fishermen at the Sea (1796) I

3 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Turner´s professional development Born in London on April, 23 th 1775 he started already at the age of 12 painting landscapes. At the age of 14 he entered the Royal Academy of Art and was accepted into the academy a year later. Due to the political situation at that time international traveling was difficult. From 1802 on Turner made several journeys to the continent (5, 6). As he grew older, Turner became more eccentric. He had few close friends except for his father. After his father's death in 1829 he was subject to bouts of depression. He never married, although he had two daughters. Crossing the Brook (1815) II

4 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 St. Peter (1819) III When he died on December, 19th 1851, he was an internationally well accepted, but also controversial considered figure and painter. His style in painting probably laid the foundation for Impressionism. Turner´s professional development

5 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Regulus (1828) IV Like many other paintings by Turner also “Regulus” (IV) was an antique theme. Here Turner understood “glare” as pathological process for the first time: According to myth Regulus´ eye lids were cut off by the Romans as he refused being the messenger and to negotiate with the conquered Carthaginians. William Turner´s cataract It is not known if Turner (then aged 53) was already affected by cataract.

6 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 William Turner´s cataract As William Turner died at the age of 76 - and as it is not mentioned that he underwent cataract surgery - he probably suffered from the characteristics of mature cataract finally. Hero and Leander (1837) V

7 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 William Turner´s cataract progression over time

8 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 The impact of the opacification of the crystalline lens can be brought into close connexion with cataract: Progression in loss of details and changing of colours can be tracked down to progression of cataract (1, 3, 4). Sunrise with Sea Monster (1845) VIII Rain, Steam and Speed (1844) VII Light and Colour (1843) VI William Turner´s cataract In his later paintings brown and yellow dominated his work, an increasing loss in contrast can be observed (V, VI, VII, VIII). This surely contributes to the assumption of cataract in William Turner. It is not known if Turner was aware of his disease (1, 4).

9 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Conclusions In the later paintings of William Turner the impact of cataract can easily be observed: Less details and the preference for yellow and brown colours can be seen (V, VI, VII, VIII). Development of colour deficiency seen in a chronological series of Turner´s pictures according to the age of the artist Early paintings of William Turner were rich in details and all colours were used (0, I, II, III).

10 ASCRS San Francisco 2009 Conclusions References : (1)Trevor-Roper, P., Der veränderte Blick. Über den Einfluss von Sehfehlern auf Kunst und Charakter, dtv 2001; (2)Schiendorfer, A., Erkundungen auf den letzten Kontinenten, Credit Suisse Bulletin, 02/2006; (3)Dahm, R., Die Welt mit anderen Augen malen, MaxPlanckForschung, 02/2006; (4)Scholtz, S., Augenblick! Geschichte und Geschichten rund ums Auge, VDM 2007; (5)Finberg, A. J., The life of J. M. W. Turner, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1961; (6)Wilton, A., Turner und seine Zeit, Hirmer, 1987; (7)Shanes, E.: Turner, Aquarelle, Hirmer, 2001; (8)Powell, C., Turner´s Rivers of Europe, The Rhine, Meuse and Mosel, Tate Gallery, 1991; (9)Davies, N., Europe: A history, Pimlico 1997; (10)www.tate.org.uk; (11)www.nationalgallery.org.uk; All pictures from Public Domain Source (wikipedia). As cataract surgery at that time was a dangerous treatment William Turner decided not to undergo this procedure. As he was a very prolific painter we have the chance to observe the progression of the influence of cataract in a great painter’s perception. Turner in his studio (2nd quarter of 19th century) VIII It is said that his last words were: “The sun is God”(9).


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