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Great Artists With Rheumatoid Arthritis: What Did Their Disease and Coping Teach? Part I. Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alexej von Jawlensky

Zeidler, Henning MD

JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology: October 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 7 - p 376–381
doi: 10.1097/RHU.0b013e3182741ad3
Rheumatology Retrospectives

The famous artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) and Alexej von Jawlensky (1864–1941) had rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both represent an outstanding example of successful coping with RA in former times when treatment was very limited, and these individuals took advantage of creative disease management. The most popular French impressionist painter Renoir used his creativity to develop his own exercises and assistive equipments for painting despite his disability. Thus, Renoir exemplifies an artistic life altered by RA over more than 25 years that he dedicated entirely to his art and the depiction of beauty and happiness testified by his own words: “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” Jawlensky, a Russian from origin, was one of the most important expressionist painter active in Germany and the first painter in the 20th century who created extensive series of paintings especially of human faces. From Jawlensky, we learned that his rapidly progressing, late-onset RA induced depression, disability, financial pressure, and social retreat. But the resulting artistic sublimation contributed to the change in his paintings, which we owe the more than 1000 series of the very unique, small-format “Meditations.”

For those interested in art, new insight will be opened into the life and work of the artists and increase the appreciation for their contribution to modern art.

From the Medical School Hannover, Hannover, Germany.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Henning Zeidler, MD, Emeritus, Wolfsburger Damm 26c, 30625, Germany. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.