Art History

Reproduce THIS: Know Your Art

Pierre Auguste-Renoir, an Artist’s Struggle with Arthritis

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the most influential painters in the Impressionist movement and produced a very large body of work during his lifetime.  One of the lesser known facts about the artist is that he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis during the later years of his life.  For a man who made his living from his hands, that could have been devastating, but instead he found inventive ways to continue his work.  Some of these pieces would find acclaim with the critics long after he had passed away, who never knew that he struggled to paint them. During that time he never lost his positive attitude or his ambition to create beautiful pieces.

Renoir began to show symptoms of this debilitating disease in the last twenty years of his life. He was only fifty years old when it began, but it didn’t develop into the extreme stages until much later. This caused him to suffer both pain and deformity of his fingers, yet he still pursued his passion for painting. Renoir traveled through Europe, hoping to find a cure or at least something to slow the progression but none of his efforts were greatly successful. At one point the pain made it impossible for him to stand, so he had a wheelchair made that was comfortable enough to allow him to sit and paint for hours. Relocating to a warmer climate helped some of his symptoms and provided new inspiration for his art. Eventually, he would be forced to tie the paintbrushes to his hands with cloth bandages because he could no longer grip them with his fingers. That did not stop him from still creating beautiful works.

Many of his later works, those created while he was fighting his disease, depicted tranquil domestic life. Many of the most popular ones include depictions of young children at different activities. Two Young Girls at the Piano is especially popular, and the attention to light and detail show nothing of the difficulty his hands had in painting it.  Renoir shows how an artist can still achieve their vision, even if their health no longer makes it easy.

Bring some of the spirit Pierre Auguste-Renoir had into your own home with any of his beautiful domestic pieces, or some of his earlier works created while in the prime of health. The vibrant colors and unique characters are prevalent no matter which period of his work you choose

Amanda Hadley

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.