Paul-César Helleu French, 1859-1927


Paul César Helleu is remembered as a French oil painter, pastel artist, dry point etcher with numerous prints to his credit, as well as a designer, but is perhaps best known as a portrait painter of beautiful women of the Belle Époque era. Helleu also conceived the ceiling mural of night sky constellations for Grand Central Terminal in New York City which was covered in 1930's; and more than 60 years later, in 1998, was completely restored to be marveled at today. He was born in Vannes, Brittany, France.  He studied at Lycee Chaptal and at age 16 was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, training with Jean-Leon Gerome.   He took a job hand-painting decorative plates to survive and pay his way.  When he was 18 he met John Singer Sargent and established a close friendship that lasted his lifetime.


Helleu was commissioned to paint a portrait of a young woman named Alice Guerin in 1884; they fell in love and married, and she was his favorite model throughout their lives.  Some of his other noteworthy subjects include the Duchess of Marlborough, the Marchesa Casati and Helena Rubenstein. In 1894 Helleu was awarded the Legion d'Honneur and became one of the most celebrated artists of the Edwardian Era in both Paris and London.  He was a member of the International Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, headed Rodin, and the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Helleu died of peritonitis in Paris following surgery in 1927.


National Society of Fine Arts

International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Engravers

Legion of Honor

Museums and Public Collections

 Art Institute of Chicago

Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Illinois

Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts

Brooklyn Museum, New York City

Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio

Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire

Dublin City Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California

Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts

Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana

Louvre, Paris

Luxembourg Museum


MacKenzie Art Gallery, Saskatchewan

Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota  

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania

Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

San Diego Museum of Art, California

Southampton City Art Gallery, England

Tate Gallery, London, UK

University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Alberta, Canada

Valtion Taidemuseo (Finnish National Gallery), Helsinki, Finland

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