Renoir’s Rheumatoid Arthritis

What do we know about Renoir’s Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Renoir painting

One of the most famous people with Rheumatoid Arthritis is Pierre August Renoir. His name is on all the lists. I read about him early on in my searches. However, most stories give precious few details about Renoir’s RA, how it affected him, and how he coped with it.

In How Renoir Coped with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Dutch rheumatologists did just that. Dr. Annelies Boonen worked with Paul Renoir, the grandson of the painter, to create a more complete picture of his Rheumatoid Arthritis. There are details to how he adapted to challenges and faced the pain. Numerous photos from the family’s albums document the RA and the ways Renoir managed with it.

Renoir on RA pain: The pain passes, but the beauty remains.

Renoir’s battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Renoir was a gifted and optimistic man with a dedicated family. Later in his life, Rheumatoid Arthritis ravaged his body with Rheumatoid cachexia and his hands became severely deformed. However, Renoir continued to find comfort in his creative work. I know you’ll enjoy this story.

“Few people know that Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who lived from 1841 to 1919, suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for the last 25 years of his life. At the 13th European congress of rheumatology in Amsterdam in 1995 Mr Paul Renoir, the artist’s 70 year old grandson, revealed several previously unpublished aspects of his grandfather’s disease…” Read more.

Note: This painting is one of my favorites. My artist daughter painted her own version of it for a high school art class. Don’t know whether she’d want me to post a photo of that. I’ll ask her!

Edit 5/6/18: updated broken BMJ link.

Recommended reading:

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

19 thoughts on “Renoir’s Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Renoir’s Rheumatoid Arthritis | RA Education | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior -- Topsy.com

  • July 14, 2010 at 10:20 am
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    I was at a Renoir show a few years ago and was surprised to learn he had RA. At the end of the show they had a short history of his battle with the disease and highlighted the paintings that he completed by tying his brush to his hand. All of his work is beautiful but those final paintings were quite remarkable. Thanks for the link to this article,

    Reply
    • July 14, 2010 at 11:24 am
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      Wonder why they are the most beautiful? Do you think it was increased passion?

      That’s the way I felt when I visited the place where Mary Lee lived & they talked about her RA. All the charity and other work she did was in a new light for me.

      Reply
      • July 14, 2010 at 11:46 am
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        I think they just touched me even more than the other paintings because they were done when his RA was so advances and the use of his fingers so limited. Maybe that made them that much more beautiful to me. To paint something in such an intricate way with the brush lashed to your hand……just remarkable.

        Reply
  • July 14, 2010 at 10:38 am
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    What an inspirational story. I am amazed at what he was able to create even in a highly disabled state. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

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    • July 14, 2010 at 11:18 am
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      Yes, Erin. It encouraged me that I might still do more things I want to do too!

      Reply
  • July 14, 2010 at 11:50 am
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    I enjoy reading the history of such extraordinary people. It makes me appreciate the technology and drugs we have in this day and time. Thanks for another wonderful insight into RA, Kelly!

    Reply
    • July 14, 2010 at 11:52 am
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      Ya know, I don’t mean RA is wonderful, right?? LOL Blessings

      Reply
  • July 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm
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    This is an awesome story. I woke up this morning with the odd thought that maybe I’d learn how to juggle to improve my coordination and movement now that I have RA. And then I read this story and learned that Renoir juggled every morning before he went into his studio. And the synchronicity continues as I sit here this afternoon listening to folkalley.com and they just played a song with Renoir in the lyrics. Here’s the verse from Looking Glass by Darrell Scott. Beneath that I put a link to a video of a live performance. The video is rough but the wine bottles on the tables and the intimacy of the place remind me of a Renoir painting. The lyrics include “light” and “shadow” and seem to continue the impressionist theme and maybe an awareness of RA (to me anyway).

    HUMAN LONGING INSPIRATION
    WOMAN PAINTING CANVAS ACROSS THE STREET
    GOT AN OLD SLOUCHY HAT AND A COAT LIKE RENOIR
    MAYBE I’LL BRING HER A CUP OF TEA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60CMx_LlTMA

    http://www.justsomelyrics.com/952867/Darrell-Scott-Looking-glass-Lyrics

    Reply
    • July 14, 2010 at 5:45 pm
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      Thanks Jay. That was great. I see what you mean about the atmosphere there looking like a painting.

      Reply
  • July 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm
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    Thanks for posting this article Kelly. I ran across it several years ago when I was researching my thesis and am glad it’s out on the Internet now instead of in a dusty library hidden. :). For more information about Renoir and his arthritis I highly recommend Barbara Ehrlich-White’s two books on Renoir (though one is rather large and unwieldy) and Jean Renoir’s book Renoir, my Father. And the new Renoir exhibit (which I think is in Philadephia right now) shows film for him trying to paint with his arthritic hands. they also have a few of the larger works for this period and you can see the roller marks on the canvas.

    Enough of this art historian rambling, thanks again!

    Reply
    • July 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm
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      Thank you Jacque, I’ll definitely go if I ever can to see one. What are the roller marks?

      Reply
  • July 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm
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    I immediately ordered one the books by Barbara Ehrlich-White recommended by Jacque. It was very inexpensive used. I think it has a lot of colored plates. Thanks to everyone who has contributed in telling us all about Renoir and his RA.

    Reply
  • July 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm
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    I’m surprised — and chastened — to learn this about Renoir. I was an art major and always loved Renoir’s work, but never knew this fact about him until today. I’m chastened because although I was a fairly successful artist for most of my life, I have all but given it up due to the deformity and pain in my hands from PsA. It seems like Renoir didn’t give up as easily as I did!

    Reply
    • July 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm
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      Cynthia, I’ve given up a lot of things too. Maybe we can find new ways to do some of the old things. (Link to a post about that.) If you are able to paint, I love to see what you can do!!

      Reply
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  • August 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm
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    It is inspiritional to read about people like Renoir who had RA and overcame the pain and disabilities to still be someone to be admired. Sometimes we feel worthless and ugly with the deformed hands and such, but a great man like this brings us hope. We can do great things if we don’t give up. We can encourage others as well. I know I hurt all the time and don’t know how early sufferers handled the pain without the modern pain relief we have today. Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2011 at 9:38 am
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    Sadly the links to the BMJ.com info are no longer available

    Reply

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