Renoir started to make sculpture only late in his life. Because his hands were crippled with arthritis, 'The Washerwoman' was modelled under Renoir's direction by the young sculptor Richard Guino. Renoir supplied drawings for Guino to translate into sculpture, and several smaller intermediate studies of 'The Washerwoman' were made. It was originally intended as one half of a pair of large figures with the subjects 'Fire' and 'Water', to be symbolised by a blacksmith and a washerwoman respectively. However, relations between Renoir and Guino became strained, and the project was never completed.