Lessons in Determination from the Painter in Pain


It’s not well known, but the famous French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir created his masterpieces during the last 20 years of his life while suffering great pain.

Even more incredible was where the pain was focused: in his hands. Renoir suffered terrible rheumatoid arthritis, a disease of the joints which eventually left his hands completely disfigured.

In his later years, Renoir suffered a stroke putting him in a wheelchair. But this unstoppable lover of art kept painting until the day he died.

Renoir’s persistence in the face of great adversity provides inspiration for today’s world of endless barriers.

“One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one’s capacity.”

How many of us take on a challenge we know we’re probably not equipped to tackle? If we do it, two things are certain: we will learn and we will grow. We may even surprise ourselves and get the job done. Disease did not stop Renoir. Will we let our own lack of confidence and initiative stop us?


You would never know it looking at this painting. but Renoir’s famous “Young Girls at the Piano” was created in 1892 when Renoir began to suffer from arthritis. He eventually needed an assistant to place the paint brush in his hand, but some of Renoir’s best work was done when afflicted with the disease.  

“Art is about emotion; if art needs to be explained it is no longer art.”

We human beings are not rational. We base our decisions – to buy a product or service, talk to a person or go to a place – primarily on how we feel. Often, it’s not something even we can explain. If it feels right, if it’s important – make your move. Let your passion guide you. You don’t have to explain it to anyone.

“Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”

Renoir had a good point. We still have a world of unpleasant things. If we use our voice to encourage, rather than discourage, practice active listening, and care about our clients, rather than trying to sell to them – we can paint a better world.


Another famous painter of the day was Claude Monet who Renoir decided to paint in 1873. Renoir teamed up with Monet and other artists to put on the first public showing of impressionist paintings in 1874. While that initial show was a flop, critics liked what they saw in Renoir’s work.

“I think I’m beginning to learn something about it.”

Renoir, at age 78, jokingly said he was finally learning how to paint. It was proof that he never gave up. For Renoir, each painting was an opportunity to learn new techniques, new ways of doing things. Practice always, keep digging up new information – move yourself forward.

Renoir was one of the few painters of his day who enjoyed fame and financial success while he was still alive.

Some of his paintings were purchased and displayed in the Louvre, a great honor. But while many people wanted to know Renoir, he felt that true friendship had eluded him.

He raised a family, fought disease and was barely able to hold a paint brush, yet he continued to create.

Life becomes worth it, when we persist.


Renoir enjoyed painting people, especially women, including numerous nudes. The top image is a photograph of an aging Renoir in 1910. 


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