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A Painter’s Disease

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A Painter’s Disease.


After his death in 1941, Paul Klee was diagnosed with scleroderma. He once wrote, "Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off. My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will." Medpage Today. Nancy Walsh. 02/25/11. (Also see: Paul Klee)



This item was posted in the ISN Newsroom. Please check the newsroom daily for updates on scleroderma and other related articles.

Janey Willis

ISN Support Specialist

(Retired) ISN Assistant Webmaster

(Retired) ISN News Director

(Retired) ISN Technical Writer for Training Manuals

International Scleroderma Network (ISN)

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I found this very interesting as it begins "After his death "...he was diagnosed. According to Scleroderma and Paul Klee he "died at the age of 60 in Switzerland due to severe scleroderma, which was diagnosed in 1936. From this time on, this connective tissue disease had followed him continuously and had strongly influenced his enjoyment of life, personal development and creative power in art work, before finally causing his death in 1940."


I just had a conversation with Shelley about how scleroderma deaths are usually put down to other causes. My mother-in-law's death certificate reads congestive heart failure although it was scleroderma that caused her body to shut down. How would scleroderma be diagnosed after death?



ISN Artist

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Hi Miocean,


Diagnosis after death is enabled by autopsy and macro and microscopic examination of tissue specimens. In cases where the outward signs of scleroderma are absent (for instance in the 'sine scleroderma' form) discovery upon autopsy of fibrotic lung tissues, changes to blood vessels, etc. would probably be the only means of diagnosis in those days.


I guess I tend to think of 1936 as not all that long ago, but in terms of progress in the medical field, it would have still been in the metaphorical dark ages. :)

Jeannie McClelland

(Retired) ISN Director of Support Services

(Retired) ISN Sclero Forums Manager

(Retired) ISN Blog Manager

(Retired) ISN Assistant News Guide

(Retired) ISN Artist

International Scleroderma Network

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Hi all,


Interesting to read your comments about Paul Klee and his struggle with scleroderma and that fact that it was not diagnosed until after his death.


Since deciding to join with the Federation of European Scleroderma Association in World Scleroderma Day on June 29 ( the date of Paul Klee's death) I have taken a great interest in his works.


Looking at his paintings through the years it is so evident of the huge affect his health had on his works. They start very bright and vibrant and over the years become dark and sad. The Kettledrummer, which is used for the awareness brochures (here in Europe), does depict this darkness, but also has the letter S running through the middle.


We have a couple of his works here in Australia, at the Melbourne Gallery and also in Canberra.


When reading through old records looking for my great-great grandfather's death certificate (he was shot!) my sister and I noticed how many were listed as consumption, dropsy, insanity (how many of those would be diseases) etc. Yes Jeannie, 1940 doesn't sound that long ago, but yes, we certainly have come a long way in the sciences since then.


Regards to all


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