Framed: 29 x 39 inches
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.
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. Encouraged by his friends John Singer Sargent and Edgar Degas his commissions for portraits of stylish women are charming, refined, and graceful examples that capture a prosperous era at the end of the 19th century into the first early years of the new 20th century. His wife Alice Guérin was his favorite model, and it is possible that this crayon and pencil drawing that was executed in a few long strokes of red crayon is in fact her likeness. The drawing captures in a very few lush lines the beautiful and elegant female form and speaks of sophistication and refinement that captures this age of opulence. Such portraits established Helleu's reputation as a master portraitist.
Sotheby's Paris, June 19, 2007
Sotheby's London, June 26, 2008
Private Collection, Glastonbury, CT