You may never look at a painting by Pierre-August Renoir in quite the same way again after seeing this three-minute film. It didn’t show in his artwork, but Renoir suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis during the last three decades of his life. He worked in constant pain, right up until the day he died.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Filmed Painting at Home (1919)
This is unique footage of the great Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). In this rare footage from 1915 we see the 74-year-old master seated at his easel, applying paint to a canvas while his youngest son Claude, 14, stands by to arrange the palette and place the brush in his father’s permanently clenched hand. By the time the film was made Renoir could no longer walk, even with crutches. He depended on others to move him around in a wheelchair. His assistants would scroll large canvases across a custom-made easel, so that the seated painter could reach different areas with his limited arm movements. But there were times when the pain was so bad he was essentially paralyzed.
In the book Renoir, My Father, the painter’s famous filmmaker son Jean describes the shock his father’s wasted figure and gnarled hands gave to people who knew him only from his beautiful art:
His hands were terribly deformed. His rheumatism had made the joints stiff and caused the thumbs to turn inward towards the palms, and his fingers to bend towards the wrists. Visitors who were unprepared for this could not take their eyes off his deformity. Though they did not dare to mention it, their reaction would be expressed by some such phrase as “It isn’t possible! With hands like that, how can he paint those pictures? There’s some mystery somewhere.”
The film of Renoir was made by 30-year-old Sacha Guitry, who appears midway through the film sitting down and talking with the artist. Guitry was the son of the famous actor and theatre director Lucien Guitry, and would go on to even greater fame than his father as an actor, filmmaker and playwright. When a group of German intellectuals issued a manifesto after the outbreak of World War I bragging about the superiority of German culture, Guitry was infuriated. As an act of patriotism he decided to make a film of France’s great men and women of the arts. It would be released as Ceux de Chez Nous, or “Those of Our Land.” Guitry and Renoir were already friends, so when the young man embarked on his project he travelled to Renoir’s home at Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The date was shortly after June 15, 1915, when Renoir’s wife Aline died.
In Sacha Guitry: The Last Boulevardier, writer James Harding describes the scene:
The choice of time was unfortunate. That very day Renoir’s wife was to be buried. Sacha went to the old man who sat huddled arthritically in his wheel chair and murmured: ‘It must be terribly painful, Monsieur Renoir, and you have my deepest sympathy.’ ‘Painful?’ he replied, shifting his racked limbs, ‘you bet my foot is painful!’ They pushed him in his chair up to a canvas, and, while Sacha leaned watching over his shoulder, Renoir jabbed at the picture with brushes attached to hands which had captured so much beauty but which now were shrivelled like birds’ claws. The flattering reminder that he was being filmed for posterity had no effect on the man who, on being awarded the cravat of a Commandeur of the Légion d’Honneur, had said: ‘How can you expect me to wear a cravat when I never wear a collar?’
Renoir died four years after the film was made, on December 3, 1919. He lived long enough to see some of his paintings installed in the Louvre. When a young Henri Matisse asked the suffering old man why he kept painting, Renoir is said to have replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
Explore in 360 degrees the Sistine Chapel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and many more – all online.
Christians have been making pilgrimages to holy sites and churches around the world for centuries. Can’t make a pilgrimage? Here’s the next best thing!
Some tours are embedded on this page, while others can be found with the link provided.
1) Sistine Chapel – Vatican City
Built in the 15th century and painted in the 16th century, the Sistine Chapel is one of the great artistic masterpieces in the world. Michelangelo painted the ceiling and the Last Judgement fresco, while the frescoes on the other walls were painted by a number of other artists. Among other things, the Sistine Chapel serves as the location for conclaves of Cardinals that elect new popes.
This one can only be viewed on the Vatican website, so click on the picture or on the link to check it out.
Located in Old Jerusalem, the Church of Holy Sepulchre is venerated by Christians for containing within its space what is believed to be the places of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection – which makes it pretty important! The original church was built in the 4th century under Constantine but has endured several rounds of extensive damage and restoration since.
Not to be confused with the Kremlin (which is nearby), St. Basil’s Cathedral was built in the 16th century on orders from Ivan the Terrible and served as a Russian Orthodox cathedral for centuries until it was confiscated and forcibly secularized in the late 1920s by the Soviet Union. It remains property of the Russian government today and is used as a museum.
Link: Start the tour! (Note: the virtual tour can take a little bit of time to load.)
This great wonder of the world was built in the 16th century in the midst of the Protestant reformation, replacing the aging church that had stood on that site since the 4th century. The largest church in the world, it is built on top of what is believed to be the grave of St. Peter, the first pope.
Church of the Nativity is located on the place that Christians have traditionally believed that Jesus was born. The first church was built in the 4th century under Constantine but was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in the 6th century. Since then it has gone through numerous restorations, additions, etc. Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic representatives run and maintain the current church.
6) Cathedral of St. Paul, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul – St. Paul, MN
Atop the highest hill in the Twin Cities (with the Minnesota state capital just a bit lower down the street!), the St. Paul Cathedral is everything you’d expect of a beautiful European cathedral – except that it’s in the U.S.! It’s the third largest completed church in the U.S., and the fourth tallest. Built in the early 20th century, it is a co-cathedral with the Basilica of St. Mary (see #6) for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.
Built in the early 20th century, the Basilica of St. Mary was the first church designated a basilica in the U.S., and serves as a co-cathedral with the Cathedral of St. Paul for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.
When was Canterbury Cathedral built? That’s a hard question to answer, since different parts of the current structure were built, torn down, rebuilt, added on, etc over nine centuries, from the 10th to the 19th, with the site having been used as a cathedral since the 6th century. During the Protestant reformation in the 16th century, the Church of England took control of the church from the Roman Catholic Church.
Built from the 12th century to the 15th century, Exeter Cathedral serves as the seat of the Anglican bishop of Exeter. Among its large collection of relics, the church has what is supposedly the Burning Bush, as well as part of a candle used by an angel in Christ’s tomb. Like the Canterbury Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral was originally a Roman Catholic cathedral, but was acquired by the Church of England in the 16th century.
Directly across the street from Rockefeller Center in the middle of New York City, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in the 19th century when midtown wasn’t as populated, and its large size dominated the area. Construction began in 1858, paused during the Civil War, and was finished in 1878. Further work was done in the early 20th century, and it was named a National Historic Site in 1976. It is currently used as the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of New York.
11) Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres – Chartres, France
Built mostly in the 13th century, Chartres Cathedral is the latest of at least five churches that have stood in its location. Amazingly, most of the stained glass in the church is original. Among its many boasts, the church claims to have the Sancta Camisa, the tunic worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary at the birth of Jesus. It is still the seat of the Catholic bishop of Chartres.
12) Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington D.C.
Located on the campus of Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception “is the largest Catholic church in the United States, the largest church of any kind in the western hemisphere, the eighth largest church building in the world, and the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C.” Construction began in 1920, but wasn’t completed until 1961 due to the Great Depression and WWII. Even so, significant additions have been made as recently as 2012. In addition to a beautiful array of images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from different cultures, the basilica houses the papal tiara of Pope Paul VI.