“One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one’s capacity.” —Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was one of the most prolific of all French Impressionist painters. During his close to sixty year career as an artist, Renoir is said to have painted over 6,000 canvases. Some of his most well-known paintings include Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (shown above) and Luncheon of the Boating Barty (available here).
When Renoir reached his late 50’s, he suffered his first severe rheumatoid arthritis attack. Within a few years, his hands and feet were so damaged by rheumatoid arthritis that he had to use a wheelchair to sit and move around. Renoir’s hands became quite deformed – so much so that in order to continue painting, paint brushes had to be wedged into his wrapped hands.
Renoir continued to paint despite the crippling impact of his rheumatoid arthritis. Large canvases were rolled up like rugs in front of the artist’s wheelchair, with only a small section exposed. Using short, sudden motions Renoir would paint – eventually completing the entire painting. Renoir once said to a dealer who saw him painting, “You see, you don’t even need a hand for painting!”1
During the 1995 European Congress of Rheumatology in Amsterdam, Renoir’s grandson revealed several previously unknown aspects, and photographs, of the artist’s life with rheumatoid arthritis.