One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one’s capacity.His hands are exactly the same as those of my Great Aunt - which is what I noticed straight away. Note how he never opens his hands properly, how his fingers are twisted at an angle and how a brush has to be placed in his hand but is not strapped to his hand.
Unique Film of Pierre-Auguste Renoir Painting (1915)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919) suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for the last 25 years of his life. He became afflicted by Rheumatoid Arthritis around the age of 50. It then became very aggressive around about 1903 when he was 60 and by 70 and for the last seven years of his life he was severely disabled. The above video was made in 1915 - three years after he lost the ability to walk and started using a wheelchair to get about. The bandages on his hands were to absorb sweat to avoid skin irritation of the soft tissues of his hands and any deterioration due to maceration. He lost weight because of rheumatoid cachexia and nodules developed with the ones on his back being particularly troublesome.
He believed in physical exercise to remain in good condition and retain mobility - but walking failed to deliver the sort of mobility he needed to be an artist.
He had no great faith in the benefit of walking which brought into play only certain muscles. He believed much more in ball-games and began juggling every morning 10 minutes before going to his studio.He also adapted his approach to painting to his progressive deformities and inability to hold items
Jean Renoir (film Director and Renoir's son)
When it became difficult to hold his palette in his hand he first let it balance on his knees and the edge of the easel. Later, he asked for it to be fixed, like a rotating table on the arm of his wheelchairIt's worth noting that he completed 400 works of art with deformed hands and all the other ills associated with this severe form of arthritis. The article cited above is enormously inforative about the various ways Renoir managed to continue to paint despite very severe disability and pain.
How Renoir coped with rheumatoid arthritis
Annelies Boonen, Jan van de Rest, Jan Dequeker, Sjef van der Linden
This landscape was painted by Renoir in 1915 - the same year as the film of him painting.
|Landscape with cabin (1915) by Pierre Auguste Renoir|
Other artists have also had to deal with problems with their hands. The most famous contemporary artist is Chuck Close who who suffered a blood clot in his spinal column 1988 which resulted in paralysis. He has his brushes strapped to his hands in order to allow him to paint his famous portraits.
Rather fewer people know that he also suffers from Prosopagnosia (face blindness) - which means he cannot recognise faces. His practice of portraiture - the process of creating two dimensional flattened paintings of his friends - enabled him to learn what they looked like in real life.
Chuck Close remains interested in portraiture because it continues to present him with a challenge while at the same time enabling him to find a way of working around the way he was created.
Other artists with eye problems
There are any number of artists who are recorded as having very significant problems with their eyesight (see Eye disease gave great painters a different vision of their work, Stanford researcher says)
|Claude Monet - using eyeglasses - in the Grande Allee of the Clos Normand at Giverny|
- Monet had repeated operations for cataracts and continued to paint even when his appreciation of colour was completely distorted
- Degas had defective eyesight all his life. In his mid 30s, retinopathy (an inability to cope with bright light and sunlight in particular) led him to work in his studio in preference to working plein air. As his vision deteriorated he began to work with broader stokes of pure colour and to abandon the detail which he was able to observe when younger. By the end of his life he was blind - by which time he'd taken to making maquettes as a way of drawing with forms which could be felt rather than seen
- Cassatt also had cataracts which dimmed her vision and operations intended to improve her eyesight led to worse vision. This led her to give up first printmaking and later painting. She also is said to have suffered from retinopathy and it's possible that the friendship between Degas and Cassatt was in part due to them both experiencing similar problems with their eyes
- Cezanne was myopic and it could be said benefitted from seeing a blur without details.
- O'Keeffe suffered from macular degeneration - one of the most common causes of blindness. She was blind before she died - and yet continued to sculpt
Essentially it's about reminding me NOT to be a wimp and to continue to engage with finding ways to make my own disabilities more tolerable and to remain engaged with art - maybe in different ways - despite any problems presented by increasing age and increasingly irritating infirmity. (I rather suspect this might resonate with others who read this blog as well!)
My own challenge
I'm getting some brand new lenses - in my eyes rather than my glasses.
I've now got my surgery dates and have got used to the idea so I'm now able to write about it on this blog.
Eye surgery in May - two operations, three weeks apart - will replace the lenses in my eyes.
This is a big deal. I had a lot of tests at a specialist Eye hospital when a small child (age 5-10) as my father was their youngest ever patient with glaucoma and he was being treated by this teaching hospital with research programmes. As a result I can't even cope with eye drops. I'm the patient with an extreme aversion to anybody going anywhere near my eyes and extremely fast reflexes who once had six people holding her down while they tried to put in drops for a pressure test!
My eyesight has deteriorated a lot in the last year or so. Some of you may have noticed I've not been doing a lot of "proper" art.
I've got two problems - both hereditary - one from each side.
One is chronic (Cataracts) and a huge nuisance in relation to seeing both tone and detail and the other is verging on acute and potentially very serious which is why this is now moving along fairly fast. My doctors are hopeful that the brand new lenses will fix both problems while I should get greatly improved eyesight as well.
I've been working out how to work round things for some time - with varying degrees of success.
Good contrast seems to be the key at present to dealing with my cataracts. The things I still have problems with are reading labels with small print ( I have magnifiers everywhere!) and/or where there is poor contrast. I totally identify with the notion of it being similar to the light having dimmed. Plus I no longer drive when people are using headlights (the starburst problem) or when there's a risk of naturally dim weather and/or poor visibility.
I can see to work in text if I can magnify it and adjust brightness levels. My 27" Apple iMac screen is a huge boon as I can zoom in while still seeing the whole width of a page. Plus Chrome lets me fix an embedded zoom level - which is why it's my browser of choice at the moment. (If you want to know how just leave a comment)
In terms of art I've opted to stick to sketching for the most part as that's something which still seems to work OK as long as I'm not trying to be too precise. I've had to give on anything with too much detail. It's very frustrating and that's probably the bit I've adjusted to least well. I can't do subjects where I want to do the detail.
Producing larger works of art - particularly botanical art - in a more formal way - is more difficult as I find the translation between details and the big picture a lot more complicated than it used to be. I've started quite a few works and had to give them up - although the process did provide food for thought in terms of what I can cope with. One solution is to work larger - so I can see what I'm doing - and in a more broad brush way!
Visiting exhibitions has also become a real problem. I can't read the labels on the wall unless I get up close. I have thought of taking a magnifying glass with me but thought it might look rather silly - particularly now that many galleries provide large print explanations. (However they haven't quite mastered the art of getting the right big print brochures in the right boxes - and they migrate between rooms!)
What all this means for me, is that, from the beginning of May, I'm going to have nearly ten weeks of somewhat odd vision. I'm intrigued as to what it will be like.
I'm booked into Moorfields (a postgraduate teaching eye hospital) for two operations in May to have my "real permanent in my eye lenses" removed and replaced. My new synthetic lens will apparently be adjusted to give me great longsight vision.
There's a delay of about three weeks between operations. Plus I have to wait until the new lenses have bedded in - which takes about 6 weeks - before I can get a prescription for new reading glasses and an assessment to see if I still need computer glasses. I'm just very thankful for the fact I always keep my old glasses and I'm hoping that amongst them and my current glasses we can find ones which will work for computers and close work during the 10 weeks. We shall see - in more ways than one (pun!).
Mind you they still have to teach me how to put eye drops in! Eeeeeek!
How about you? Do you have a disability or other challenge which you need to work round in order to to create art?