Renoir, Rheumatoid Arthritis, And Perseverance

“One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one’s capacity.”
—Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Renoir Moulin Galette

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.

Be sure to take a look at How Renoir Coped with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Once you read all of the details and see the photographs, you will never look at another Renoir painting in quite the same way.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

17 Comments
17 comments
  1. Just Christine says:

    Wow! That was inspiring! Also made me feel quite small for complaining about what RA has taken away from me. I’m off to the warm-water pool to do what I can! Thanks, RA Guy!

  2. sara says:

    He was always one of my very favorites, so this resonates even more to find out that he had RA. Thanks for posting this! A good reminder of what can still be accomplished.

  3. MissDazey says:

    I didn’t know this, I just enjoyed his work. Thanks for posting this info up for us. It think it also proves when someone as a passion, nothing can stop them.

  4. RA Guy says:

    Yeah I came across this article a couple of weeks ago and was really happy to have found it. I always getting to learn something new about famous artists.

  5. Susan says:

    One thing I came across–when I was first diagnosed with RA–was a photo of Renoir’s hands. At that point, I was having difficulty holding a toothbrush, let alone a paint brush. I was (still am) in awe of his determination to create beauty in spite of tremendous pain.

  6. Kelly says:

    This was so important for me to read today. After being diagnosed with RA two years ago, I have really struggled with the increasing disability in my hands. As an artist myself, I have mourned over the loss of my ability to paint. The last painting I did was so painful to complete that I was sure it would be my last. After reading this today, I’m inspired to press on through the pain and difficulty and will continue to paint…

  7. Amy says:

    Renoir is amazing in what he was able to paint with his condition. Wow indeed. We can’t forget though that he had a supportive wife (and staff?) who took care of all the essentials of daily living for him, which gave him the ability to prioritze his artwork and use any energy he had that way. Does not take anything away from his accomplishment — just makes me realize I need to find an energetic and supportive partner like that to get my own art going again! (Kidding)

  8. Roberta says:

    What a great story! I have given up so many of the crafts that I once loved. Maybe I should give them another try and just modify my methods. I do agree though, that a supportive wife and family allowing him to prioritize his energy was probably key.

  9. LissaRachelle says:

    As an artist myself, I live with the knowledge and neverending fear that I could wake up tomorrow and be unable to hold, much less wield, my pencils. Renoir, with his perserverence through the pain, as well as his passion, is truly an inspiration for all RA sufferers.

  10. Marcia says:

    Renoir has always been one of my favorite painters. This article was so wonderful and inspiring! And how heartwarming to see how those around him cared for him so admirably that he could still paint until the day of his death. If only all RA patients had that kind of support.

  11. Erica vorhauer says:

    You always have great information! Here in Virginia the Arthritis Foundation did an event about Renoir. It was great!!!

  12. Michelle Coon says:

    I stumbled upon your page while I was searching for products to help my sister, who has RA. The only thing I haven’t found is something to help her do dishes. She can’t grip at all and wet soapy dishes and glasses just fall out of her hands. Any ideas on products that are useful for this??

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