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Art and Images in Psychiatry
April 2010

La Cortisone

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(4):317. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.29

Tomorrow I sail to Boston in search/Of my hands. . . . Fifteen years ago the attacks began. Disfiguring my hands/As if I were painting with leaden gloves. . . . My only wish: to draw freehand/Following the wind/Flowers that beckon me/And capturing them/In a vase of Anemones.

—Raoul Dufy, April 19501(p286)

In December 1949, Freddy Homburger, MD, a skilled watercolorist, saw a photograph of French painter, illustrator, and decorator Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) in Life magazine that showed his hands had been deformed by rheumatoid arthritis. The renowned artist, one of the most popular of the 20th century, was increasingly disabled, could not stand without help, and struggled to paint using only his left hand, having lost the use of his right. Dr Homburger, familiar with recent treatment trials with ACTH (corticotropin) and cortisone for arthritis, wrote to Dufy, explained the risk of participating in clinical research, and offered to hospitalize him on his research unit in Boston should he decide to participate in a clinical treatment trial. Dufy's physician, familiar with the groundbreaking research of Philip Hench, MD, on the treatment of arthritis with cortisone at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, encouraged him to accept. On April 6, 1950, Dufy responded with gratitude, writing, “You bring me today my recompense in offering your art and your science in the alleviation of the pains of my illness.”2(p60)

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