Vincent van Gogh and Yellow Vision

Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 in Zundert, the Netherlands.  Toward the end of his life, he suffered from manic episodes and/or epilepsy and was treated by the well-known physician Paul-Ferdinand Gachet.  Below is a portrait of the physician by van Gogh, dated 1890:


The plant pictured in front of the doctor is the purple foxglove, from which the medication digitalis can be derived.  In the 19th century, digitalis was widely used as a sedative, anti-convulsant, and anti-mania medication.  One of its side effects is xanthopsia, the equivalent of viewing the world through yellow tinted lenses.

It is possible that Dr. Gachet treated van Gogh with digitalis and that van Gogh suffered from digitalis-induced xanthopsia, especially when one considers the preponderance of yellow hues in van Gogh’s works as exemplified by the appearance of the stars in The Starry Night (1889):