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Letters to the Editor

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2011
Quality matters, in art and engineering

The recent “Peregrinations” article on Vincent vanGogh (Photonics Spectra, April 2011, p. 98) caught my attention. First, my background: I am a registered (design) engineer, probably the oldest one in Nova Scotia; I am also recognized as a professional artist and work mainly in watercolors.

From 1946 to 1953, I worked for Philips Electronics in the Netherlands, and during that time I saw a large exhibit of “moderns” (post-1900) in the van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. The yellows in the van Goghs were brilliant. In a book of the complete paintings of van Gogh, published by Taschen in 1993, the colors are not as good. During my last visit to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, maybe three years ago, I was flabbergasted to notice how much the yellows had faded. The book looks good by comparison.

Here is my take on the fading: Vincent van Gogh was supported by his brother Theo, who supplied him with art materials. I would take bets that Theo felt morally obliged to help his poor brother but also that he would not feel obliged to pay for top-of-the-line paints. Maybe there are samples of “student quality” paints of the day that need analysis as well. Poor Vincent sold only one painting during his lifetime.

I have found that many painters are inclined to save money by buying inferior materials. Another Dutchman, Mondriaan, used a lot of primary colors, but all of his work had to be restored, and most of it does not have the original paint.

Bert van Leeuwen, P.Eng
BVL Industrial Design Ltd.
Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada

More Mexican Optics

I read with interest your article “Photonics marches steadily forward in southern climes,” published in the April issue (p. 30).

The article centers on the research at INAOE (Instituto Nacional de Astrofìsica, Óptica y Electrónica) and mentions other places in Mexico where research in optics is conducted. One thing that caught my attention is that no mention is made of CICESE (Centro de Investigación Cientìfica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada), a research center in the north of Mexico with an optics department that is as old – and as important – as the one in INAOE, or even CIO (Centro de Investigaciones en Óptica), which also is mentioned in the article.

It would be nice if you would publish something on the work we conduct here, which I would say is of a very high level.

Dr. Raúl Rangel Rojo
Head of the Applied Physics Div.
Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico


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