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Artists Biography

Paul César Helleu

French 1859-1927
helleu madam h
Paul César Helleu (17 December 1859 - 23 March 1927) was a French oil painter, pastel artist, drypoint etcher, and designer, best known for his numerous portraits of beautiful society women of the Belle Époque. He also conceived the ceiling mural of night sky constellations for Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

In 1876, at the age of sixteen, Helleu was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts, beginning academic training in art with Jean-Léon Gérôme. Helleu attended the Second Impressionist Exhibition in the same year, and made his first acquaintances with John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler and Claude Monet, all of whom would greatly influence Helleu.

When he was eighteen years old, Helleu established a close friendship with John Singer Sargent, four years his senior, that was to last his lifetime.

Helleu was commissioned in 1884 to paint a portrait of a young woman named Alice Guérin (1870–1933). They fell in love, and married on 28 July 1886. Alice would become Helleu’s favourite model. Charming, refined and graceful, she helped introduce them to the aristocratic circles of Paris, where they became popular fixtures.

Among many of his friends was Coco Chanel, who chose beige as her signature colour upon on his advice—the colour of the sand on the beach of Biarritz in early morning.

Both his son Jean Helleu and his grandson Jacques Helleu became artistic directors for Parfums Chanel.

Works by this artist…

  • Madame Helleu
    Madame Helleu
    ( ref : 15459 )
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