I have admired Renoir for many years. I would visit the Philadelphia Art Museum where his works caught my eye and spoke to me, as I have always loved impressionist works of arts. Then one day, I had an opportunity to listen to a speaker on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and art and was surprised to learn Renoir suffered from RA. As a rheumatology practice manager, this piqued my curiosity.
Renoir was a leading French impressionist painter, born on February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France and died December 3, 1919, in Cagnes. You may be surprised to learn at a young age, he worked in a porcelain factory and his talent led him to be selected to paint designs on porcelain china. He was one of the most famous artists of the early twentieth century and today his works remain loved by those who celebrate art and appreciate the beauty captured by the precise strokes of his paintbrushes.
Renoir and RA
Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. During the last twenty years of his life, even after his arthritis severely limited his mobility, Renoir continued following his passion—he continued to paint. Even as he developed progressive deformities in his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, Renoir never gave up. Renoir’s arthritis required him to change his painting techniques and to use the assistance of others to place the paintbrush in his hand. Despite his debilitating disease, Renoir maintained a high level of precision and efficiency with his painting. He remained positive and did not let his condition change his love of painting as he continued to see beauty in the world around him and translate it into art that the world still appreciates today.
I have a Renoir painting hanging in my office reception area. Renoir’s long battle with rheumatoid arthritis serves as an inspiration to our patients who also experience the pain and limited mobility associated with this disease. His perseverance encourages our patients to develop coping mechanisms that allow them to pursue their own passions and live life with RA to the fullest. Many of my patients who see the painting will comment, “Did you know Renoir had RA?” It makes me proud to inspire our patients with Renoir’s work of art. I hope he can inspire your patients as well.