Most people don’t know that Renoir had Rheumatoid Arthritis. His arthritis was some of the most crippling I’ve heard described… and yet, he managed to bring such beauty through his art.
When Renoir was 57 (1898), he suffered what appears to have been his first major flare up. During the winters, he stayed in the warmer region of southern France. During the summers, he would try to get as much medical treatment as possible. After not very long, Renoir experienced deformities and terrible dry skin.
By 1904, Renoir had shrunk to a tiny 105 pounds and found it very difficult to sit. By 1910, he was forced into a wheelchair when crutches became too hard for him to use. His hands were claw-like and could no longer pick up his paintbrush. Instead of giving up, he had someone else wedge the brush between his fingers and he continued to paint everyday… unless he had a major flare up and couldn’t even get out of bed. Because of how much pain he was in, he even had a wire contraption around his bed to keep the covers off of his body.
From time to time, he would be paralyzed from his arthritis. After this would subside, he would continue painting. He had a special easel which helped him to reach more of the canvas. By 1912, Renoir’s left arm became permanently paralyzed. He began to create sculptures, with others doing the hands-on work. In 1915, Renoir was finally able to paint again, though he now had to be carried to his easel. He later died in 1919.
His story is one of immense pain, but perseverance. To think that he only stopped painting for three years, despite his deformities and suffering, is just amazing. He really is my new hero.