By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

It is estimated that artist Pablo Picasso created 13,500 paintings and about 100,000 prints and engravings. A creative genius, his best-known works span periods from the Blue Period to Cubism to Neoclassism and Surrealism, with others in between. His unique style is recognizable to almost anyone, but did you know that Picasso had a vision condition that is believed to have influenced his art?

Picasso had strabismus, a condition in which the visual axes of the eyes are not parallel, and the eyes appear to be looking in different directions. The misalignment means that two different images are sent to the brain—one from each eye. The brain is unable to fuse the two disparate images into one clear image and may suppress the image from one eye. When one image is suppressed, it affects stereopsis or depth perception, the ability to accurately judge distances. The photograph of Picasso shows an outward deviation of his right eye, indicating strabismus.

Picasso’s lack of depth perception may have made it easier for him to transfer three dimensional images onto two dimensional canvasses. If you’ve ever taken an art class, you may recall being instructed to look at the subject with one eye closed to see a two-dimensional image. This lack of depth perception seems to make Picasso’s development of Cubism unlikely, but his vision condition actually was an asset. According to Masterwoks Fine Art gallery, Picasso “felt that we do not see an object from one angle or perspective, but rather from many angles selected by sight and movement. As a result of this belief, Cubism became about how to see an object or figure rather than what the artist was looking at.”

Margaret Livingstone, Harvard Medical School professor of neurobiology conducted research that has shown problems with stereopsis to be more common among artists than others. Livingstone and her research team tested stereopsis in more than 400 art students and nearly 200 non-art students. “The team not only found poorer stereo accuracy among the art students as compared to the non-artists, but also found a prevalence of eye misalignment among the established artists, indicating an increased incidence of strabismus.” Livingstone further notes, “… at a minimum, if poor stereopsis doesn’t contribute to artistic talent, it certainly doesn’t detract from it.” Approximately 4% of children in the United States live with strabismus. Might there be more budding great artists among them?

Learn more about fusion, stereopsis and binocular vision with our CE, Unraveling Amblyopia, Strabismus, Phorias and Tropias, at 2020mag.com/ce.