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Paul Cesar Helleu (Vannes 1859 - Paris 1927)

  • Paul Cesar Helleu - Élégante à la canne
    Paul Cesar Helleu Élégante à la canne Full details

    SP 5252

     

    PAUL-CÉSAR HELLEU

     Vannes 1859 - 1927 Paris

     

    Élégante à la canne

     

    Signed lower right: Helleu

    Black, white and red clay pencils on brown paper:

    36 x 19 ¼ in / 91.4 x 48.9 cm

     

    Drawn circa 1902

     

    Provenance

    Private collection, Europe

     

    To be included in the catalogue raisonné of the work of Paul-César Helleu being prepared by l’Association des Amis de Paul-César Helleu, inventory no. DE-2481

     

     

    Paul-César Helleu was one of the finest draughtsmen of his age, drawing with a sinuous line and caressing touch that epitomises the Belle Epoque. He was famed for his portraits of society beauties and graceful drawings of women inspired by his red-haired wife and muse Alice Guérin. Helleu was also strongly aware of his place in French artistic tradition: having studied with Gérôme, a pupil of Ingres, he described himself as ‘the grandson of Ingres’. Ingres was himself a superb portrait draughtsman. The trois crayons technique of this drawing, however, owes most to Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), another superlative observer of feminine mystique. Watteau’s work was avidly collected at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and influenced neo-rococo interiors, a style adopted by Helleu himself with the carefully chosen antiques in his Paris apartment. A print after Watteau can be seen in an 1890 photograph of Helleu.   

     

    Here Alice is dressed to go walking in a three-flounce suit and feathered hat, carrying a cane. Helleu was finely attuned to female fashion and frequently depicted Alice in pale colours, which showed off her creamy skin and rich auburn hair. In an interview given in 1902 to the Evening Telegraph, he commented: ‘My pictures are in great demand in France, by all the leading modistes as models for their gowns. Felix, Doucet and Worth all follow my suggestions. Beige, the colour of dead leaves, I use largely. It’s so artistic and becoming. It blends, you know, with the hair and. complexion. You will notice it is popular…There is nothing which gives a figure such long, graceful lines as the three flounce suit. This I have introduced with splendid effect’[1].

    PAUL-CÉSAR HELLEU

     Vannes 1859 - 1927 Paris

     

    Paul César Helleu was a painter and engraver whose work epitomises the charm and elegance of France in the Belle Epoque. His portraits of his wife, Alice, are considered to be amongst his most sensitive works. However, it was his commissioned portraits of society ladies that brought him fame and fortune.

     

    Helleu was born in Vannes on the Breton coast in 1859. In 1870 he moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme; his circle of friends included John Singer Sargent (who bought one of his earliest works), Degas, Whistler, Alfred Stevens and Giovanni Boldini. Impoverished as a student, for a decade Helleu supplemented his finances by decorating plates for the potter Joseph-Théodore Deck. In 1876 Helleu and Sargent visited the Second Impressionist Exhibition, which was to have a profound effect on their artistic careers. Helleu was greatly impressed by this new group of artists and was accepted as one of them. In 1886 he was invited by Degas to exhibit in the eighth exhibition, but declined because of the advice of Monet and his dislike of Gauguin’s work.

     

    Helleu’s reputation was established when he exhibited several large pastels at the Salons of 1885 and 1886, including Woman with a fan (Salon 1886; Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN). Jacques-Emile Blanche declared that never before had an unknown artist received such a rapturous reception. In 1885 Helleu visited London with Gérôme to paint a panorama (untraced). He became an Anglophile and thenceforth visited England almost every year.

     

    The following year Helleu married Alice Guérin, with whom he had fallen in love two years previously, when she was only fourteen. The graceful, red-haired Alice became his chief muse and model. Helleu’s paintings and drypoints of Alice and their lovely children, executed with a sinuous lightness of line, are among his most celebrated works. Helleu became a master of the difficult drypoint medium, executing many portraits of society beauties. In 1887 Helleu met Comte Robert de Montesquiou, the inspiration for the decadent Baron de Charlus in Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Montesquiou became an important patron and Helleu also painted several portraits of de Montesquiou’s cousin, Mme de Greffulhe (Proust’s Duchesse de Guermantes). Helleu himself features in Proust’s magnum opus as the painter Elstir.

     

    Helleu’s financial success as a society portraitist allowed him to indulge a love of yachting which he had inherited from his father. He spent his summers at Deauville and Cowes, mixing with both French and English high society. Alice enjoyed entertaining on their boat L’Etoile and Helleu painted many canvases of life on board and harbour scenes.

     

    Helleu visited America in 1902, 1912 and 1920, portraying famous American ladies such as Helena Rubenstein (drypoint) and the flamboyant Director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle da Costa Greene (coloured chalk drawing; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York). In 1912 he painted the signs of the zodiac on the ceiling of Grand Central Station. Paul-César Helleu died in Paris on 23rd March 1927.

     

    The work of Paul-César Helleu is represented in the Musée D’Orsay, Paris; the Louvre, Paris; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; Tate, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

     

    [1] Anonymous author, ‘Mr Helleu, artist, enthuses over American woman and originates fashion’, The Evening Telegraph, 20th December 1902.

  • Paul Cesar Helleu - Madame Helleu assise sur un canape
    Paul Cesar Helleu Madame Helleu assise sur un canape Full details

    SP 4810

     

    PAUL-CESAR HELLEU

     Vannes 1859 - 1927 Paris

     

    Madame Helleu assise sur un canapé

     

    Signed lower right: Helleu

    Black, red and white chalk on paper:

    30 x 24 ¾ in / 76.2 x 62.9 cm

    Frame size: 34 ¼ x 29 ¼ in / 87 x 74.3 cm

     

    Drawn circa 1905

     

    Provenance

    Aimée da Sa Sottomaior de Heeren (1903-2006)

     

    To be included in the catalogue raisonné of the work of Paul-César Helleu being prepared by l’Association des Amis de Paul-César Helleu, inventory no.DE-3930

     

     

    Paul-César Helleu’s elegant, red-haired wife Alice, whom he married in 1886, was his muse and chief model. He delighted in depicting her exquisite profile and abundant, upswept Titian hair, framed by one of the extravagant hats fashionable in the Belle Epoque. Alice sits on a delicate Louis XV canapé, one of the antiques which Helleu sought out in the byways of Paris and with which he filled his apartment. The trois crayons technique of this work is inspired by the drawings of Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Like Watteau, Helleu was a superb, instinctive draughtsman who conveys information about the figure of Alice, the chair and the surrounding space with sinuous, caressing lines. The three colours are used with the utmost economy to suggest a multiplicity of tones.  

     

    This drawing was owned by one of the most stylish personalities of the twentieth century, Aimée de Sa Sottomaior de Heeren (1903-2006). She married Rodman de Heeran, son of Fernanda Wanamaker of the Philadelphia department store dynasty and the Spanish diplomat Arturo de Heeren. Aimée was elected to the Best Dressed List and the Fashion Hall of Fame. She filled her houses in Biarritz, Palm Beach and the Wanamaker Munn House at East 90th Street with superb works of art.

     

     

    Aimée de Heeren.

     

     

    PAUL-CÉSAR HELLEU

     Vannes 1859 - 1927 Paris

     

    Paul César Helleu was a painter and engraver whose work epitomises the charm and elegance of France in the Belle Epoque. His portraits of his wife, Alice, are considered to be amongst his most sensitive works. However, it was his commissioned portraits of society ladies that brought him fame and fortune.

     

    Helleu was born in Vannes on the Breton coast in 1859. In 1870 he moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme; his circle of friends included John Singer Sargent (who bought one of his earliest works), Degas, Whistler, Alfred Stevens and Giovanni Boldini. Impoverished as a student, for a decade Helleu supplemented his finances by decorating plates for the potter Joseph-Théodore Deck. In 1876 Helleu and Sargent visited the Second Impressionist Exhibition, which was to have a profound effect on their artistic careers. Helleu was greatly impressed by this new group of artists and was accepted as one of them. In 1886 he was invited by Degas to exhibit in the eighth exhibition, but declined because of the advice of Monet and his dislike of Gauguin’s work.

     

    Helleu’s reputation was established when he exhibited several large pastels at the Salons of 1885 and 1886, including Woman with a fan (Salon 1886; Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN). Jacques-Emile Blanche declared that never before had an unknown artist received such a rapturous reception. In 1885 Helleu visited London with Gérôme to paint a panorama (untraced). He became an Anglophile and thenceforth visited England almost every year.

     

    The following year Helleu married Alice Guérin, with whom he had fallen in love two years previously, when she was only fourteen. The graceful, red-haired Alice became his chief muse and model. Helleu’s paintings and drypoints of Alice and their lovely children, executed with a sinuous lightness of line, are among his most celebrated works. Helleu became a master of the difficult drypoint medium, executing many portraits of society beauties. In 1887 Helleu met Comte Robert de Montesquiou, the inspiration for the decadent Baron de Charlus in Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Montesquiou became an important patron and Helleu also painted several portraits of de Montesquiou’s cousin, Mme de Greffulhe (Proust’s Duchesse de Guermantes). Helleu himself features in Proust’s magnum opus as the painter Elstir.

     

    Helleu’s financial success as a society portraitist allowed him to indulge a love of yachting which he had inherited from his father. He spent his summers at Deauville and Cowes, mixing with both French and English high society. Alice enjoyed entertaining on their boat L’Etoile and Helleu painted many canvases of life on board and harbour scenes.

     

    Helleu visited America in 1902, 1912 and 1920, portraying famous American ladies such as Helena Rubenstein (drypoint) and the flamboyant Director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle da Costa Greene (coloured chalk drawing; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York). In 1912 he painted the signs of the zodiac on the ceiling of Grand Central Station. Paul-César Helleu died in Paris on 23rd March 1927.

     

    The work of Paul-César Helleu is represented in the Musée D’Orsay, Paris; the Louvre, Paris; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; Tate, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

     

Paul Cesar Helleu was a painter and engraver whose work epitomises the charm and elegance of France at the turn of the century. His portraits of his wife, Alice, are considered to be amongst his most graceful and sensitive works. However, it was his commissioned portraits of society ladies that brought him considerable fame and fortune.


Helleu was born in Vannes in 1859. As a young man he moved to Paris and supplemented his allowance by decorating plates for the ceramic artist Deck. During this period he became a close friend of John Singer Sargent whom he joined as a pupil of Jean Leon Gerome at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts and who was to buy his first painting. At this time he met and fell very much in love with Alice Guerin who was only fourteen years old, Alice's parents insisted that they could not marry until she was sixteen and even then they had to live with the Guerins for two more years.


In 1876 Helleu and Sargent visited the Second Impressionist Exhibition which was to have a profound effect on their artistic careers. Helleu was greatly impressed by this new group of artists and was accepted as one of them. In 1886 he was invited to exhibit in the eighth exhibition but was urged not to do so by his friend Monet.


As Helleu's success as a society portraitist increased he was able to indulge his love of yachts and sailing which he had inherited from his father, a naval officer. He spent his summers at Deauville or Cowes mixing with both English and French Society which only served to increase his popularity. His wife enjoyed entertaining on their boat L'Etoile and Helleu painted many canvasses of life on board and other harbour scenes.


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    33 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2RS

    147 New Bond Street London, W1S 2TS

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