We wouldn't dream of diminishing the work of any of the great masters on this list, or insist you start enjoying it less. But even great artists are just fallible human beings, which is why we can't dismiss these theories about their famous work being the result of accidents, trickery, or outright fraud.
We want to emphasize the word "theories" here -- none of these have been proven, and probably never will be. Still, it's interesting to think that ...
5Vincent Van Gogh Might Have Been Color-Blind
Even if you know nothing about art, you can probably spot a Vincent Van Gogh painting due to his extremely distinctive style of visible brush strokes, swirls, and unusual coloration. You've surely seen this one, for example:
Now, when we say "unusual coloration," we mean that sometimes shit just isn't the right color. For instance, here's another famous painting of his, of a vase of sunflowers:
Vincent Van Gogh
"I originally wanted to include some ears of corn, but decided to cut it."
The center of his flowers are a very bright red -- real sunflowers tend to be a dark reddish-brown -- and the yellows are washed out by comparison. But hey, that's why he's a genius artist and we're just a bunch of dickheads. Those oddball choices are what separate true artists from the rest of us (and sometimes from their own ears). But here's the thing: Show that painting to someone who has a specific type of color-blindness -- the kind that keeps them from seeing red very well -- and they'll say, "Unusual coloration? Looks pretty realistic to me." That's because they're seeing this:
So, basically reverse Zack Snyder.
See, it has been long rumored that Van Gogh was color-blind, for this very reason. So designer Kazunori Asada ran all of the artist's paintings through a lighting filter to see how they would have looked to the artist if he was as color-blind as the theory goes. And what you find is that the odd color choices may have been accidents due to the poor bastard being unable to perceive them. He just didn't know the pigment he'd mixed up was that red.
Look, he's not saying the paintings are better this way, but they're definitely more muted and realistic. Here's another one -- first the original, as Van Gogh painted it:
Sharp black lines like a comic book, surrounding inexplicable green in the tree trunks. And now, here's what a color-blind Van Gogh would have seen:
Follow him on Instagram, @VinnieG.
Likewise, look at the unnatural greens in the middle of this one ...
Vincent Van Gogh
The grass is always greener when you're color-blind.
... versus the one adjusted for color-blindness:
This is like cheap, off-brand LSD.
Again, we're not going to say that messing with the color scale in a Van Gogh "improves" it -- we're not a bunch of assholes. But it definitely looks more like the real world, meaning Van Gogh's surreal use of color may have been a result of him simply not being able to see his paintings the way everyone else did. He may literally have not known he was painting a wheat field bright orange ...
Vincent Van Gogh
... Kraft microwaveable wheat right there ...
... instead of, you know, wheat color:
Note: If you are color-blind, this article will make no sense to you.
4Andy Warhol's Success May Be Credited To Asperger's Syndrome
In the 1960s, eccentric artist Andy Warhol changed the landscape of visual art forever when he hung up 32 identical paintings of a soup can in a gallery, dropped his paintbrush like a comedian at the end of his set, and called it his masterpiece. Thus the genre of pop art was born. The phenomenon of using advertising imagery, celebrities, and comic book panels in gallery artwork became one of the most iconic and widespread art movements of the 20th century.
Now, if you were strolling through the gallery with an insensitive asshole, he might smirk at the rows of identical soup cans and say, "That shit looks like something some Asperger's kid made while he was locked in his room for the weekend. A kid who really likes soup." Well, asshole or not, some experts would agree.
On the back of each is a painting of a grilled cheese sandwich.
Decades after Warhol's death, several mental health professionals and scientists including Dr. Judith Gould and Prof. Michael Fitzgerald diagnosed the artist with being somewhere on the autism spectrum. Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by behaviors such as limited displays of emotion, concise speech mannerisms, and obsessions with fixed routines and hobbies -- all of which, according to those who knew him, described Warhol to a T.
His eccentricity wasn't just limited to drawing the same picture of a soup tin over and over again -- his friends have reported that he ate tomato soup every single day, and in his autobiography he admitted that he obsessively purchased the same brand of green cotton underpants over and over again. On top of all that, Warhol was notorious for his unusual way of relating to people -- once responding to a friend's suicide by saying only that he wished he'd been there in time to film it -- which is also the kind of social awkwardness that's common with autism spectrum disorders. At least, we hope that's the explanation, because otherwise it implies that Warhol was just kind of a dick.
"If you're holding a camera, it's just being an artist."
After his death, it was also discovered that Warhol had a massive hoarding problem (not just green underwear but other pointless trinkets, like cookie jars that he obsessively collected but never unpacked) and had spent his final years endlessly re-creating Da Vinci's painting The Last Supper over and over again, more than 60 times.
Given that Warhol always notoriously insisted that his artwork didn't mean a damn thing, it's likely that he was completely sincere -- he wasn't trying to make some complicated statement about art or the state of society; he was just an obsessive dude who really, really liked soup. A lot. But here's the ironic part: It might be that in the process of trying to create something meaningless, he actually created a striking portrait of a mind getting locked into the same pointless task, over and over again. So it did have meaning after all! Suck it, Warhol!