Portrait of Paul Helleu
John Singer Sargent -- American painter
c. 1885-1889 
Fogg Art Museum, 
Harvard Univerity
Cambridge Massachusetts 
Pastel on paper 
49.4 x 44.8 cm (sight)
Inscription: u.r.: A l'ami Paul Helleu
Signature: u.r.: John S. Sargent
Bequest of Mrs Annie Swan Coburn
Jpeg: local source

Notes on painting at Harvard

Sampling of works
by Helleu
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Edition Sagot-Estampes & Affiches Illustres 
c. 1898-1900
Lithograph in colors 

Decorative Art
c. 1900
La Belle Époque

Femme au chapeau a plumes 
(Female with hat and plumes)
c. 1895
Drypoint printed in black, brown and red

Seated Young Woman
Red, white and black chalks on card 

Femme Aux Yeux Bleu 
(Woman with the Blue Eyes)
c. 1890
Drypoint and etching with hand coloring

Portrait of a Woman (2)

Consuelo Vanderbilt 
(Duchess of Marlborough) 1877-1964 

Peggy Letellier

Femme au Chapeau
(Lady with a Hat)
Colour drypoint

Mademoiselle Vaughan

Le Chapeau Plume
Color drypoint

Madame Letelier
(Etude d'après )

The Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles

Graceful Portrait of Elegant Woman
Drypoint on pape

Femme assise de trois quarts
(Seated woman three quarter)
c. 1895 

Portrait of a Woman, 
c 1895 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
Color drypoint 
54.5 x 33.5 cm (image) 
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts 

Buste de femme au chapeau de profil
(Bust of woman to the hat profile)
Drypoint printed in black, brown, red and blue

Le chapeau a plume - Mademoiselle Liane de Pougy, 
(Hat with feather - Miss Liane Pougy)
Drypoint printed in black, blue and red

La Chapeau au Plume 
(The Hat with the Feather)
Original etching and drypoint printed in dark umber on wove paper with full margins.

Portrait of a Woman

Lady Standing with Hat

Black Hat
His Wife 
and Family 

Madame Helleu
Madame Helleu at Fladbury with John Singer Sargent
Oil on canvas

Rêverie (Daydream) 

Madame Helleu sur son yacht L'etoile
c. 1898-1900

Madame Helleu in Her Husband's Studio

Alice 2 Mois
(Alice 2 months) 
c. 1890 
Etching & drypoint 
11 7/8" x 7 3/4"


Young woman in white (Mrs. Helleu) 
c. 1900 
Oil on canvaas 
80.5 x 65 cm 

Studies of Mme Helleu and Ellen circa 1895 
Drawing on paper 

Four Head Studies: Madame Helleu with Hat

Mother and Child
lithograph on pape

Ellen a treize ans 
(Ellen at thirteen years old)
Drypoint printed in sanguine

Four studies for the portrait of Ellen 
Three pencils 

Mrs Helleu with the flowers 

Lioness with Blue Hydrangeas

Madame Paul Helleu Seated at Her Secretaire, Seen From the Back 
c. 1900
Oil on canvas 

On the Sofa

Elegant Woman at the Rail

Vase of Flowers
c. 1896 

On the beach, Gray Sea Impression In Dieppe
Oil on canvas

Sailing at Cowes from the Royal Squadron Yacht Club 

The Feathered Hat
(Comtesse de Loriol Chandieu)


Young Woman on a Divan

Lady with Flowers

Robert de Montesquiou
Maybe 1900s 

Lady with a Fan

Le Grand Pavois

The Yacht Etoile 
c. 1903

The Yacht Nereus in Roads Cowes
c. 1900

The Harbor at Deauville

Portrait of Bride Jeanne Gouzien
1888 or; 1889
Pastel on white paper

 La Jeune Fille 
(The Girl) 

Mlle Madeleine Dolley - the Hat with the Blue Knot

Croquis de Têtes d'une Jeune Femme - Sketches of a Young Lady's head 
Drypoint printed in bistre,

"Feuille D´etude DES tetes" 
Drawing with crayon enhancements to "sanguine"

Le chapeau de plisses 

La Duchesse de Marlborough assoupie a Blenheim Palace avec son chien 
(The Duchess Marlborough drowsy at Blenheim Palace with her dog) 

Study of A Young Woman, 19th - 20th century 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
38.3 x 25.2 cm (image); 55.3 x 40.5 cm (sheet)

Woman washing elbow 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
27.4 x 19.5 cm

Study of a young woman's head 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
40.1 x 25.6 cm (image); 44.3 x 29.7 cm (sheet

Young woman and a little girl, 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
41.3 x 31.2 cm (image); 54.9 x 44.1 cm (sheet) 

La danse du chien 
(The dance of the dog) 
40.4 x 29.5 cm (image); 53.5 x 39.5 cm 

Woman reading, 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
Drypoint, printed in red 
Bequest of Suzette Olga Bischof 

Quatre Mains 
(Four hands) 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
39.9 x 29.7 cm (image); 56 x 37.5 cm (sheet) 
California State Library long loan 

Three woman holding umbrellas, 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico century 
27.3 x 19.5 cm (image); 30.4 x 22.3 cm

Lady kneeling in front of a fireplace, 
Fine Art Museums of San Fransico 
38.6 x 28.8 cm (image); 55.5 x 44.8 cm 

La pèlerine de martre 
Portrait mondain. 




Paul César Helleu   1859-1927

John Singer Sargent's close friend Paul Helleu  had a dazzling career as a society portraitist. But it might not have ever started if it weren't for JSS (See Paul Helleu Sketching, 1899) 

It may come as a surprise to many  that Helleu was also the creator of the astrological ceiling decoration in New York's Grand Central Station (1912) 

When John Singer Sargent sketched the informal portrait of his friend (the Portrait of Paul Helleu above) the use of pastel as a medium is very deliberate on Sargent's part. John, from what I can tell, hardly ever used pastel, but his friend Helleu used it quite extensively (though the sampling of paintings here doesn't fully reflect it). By the use of pastel John has made it all the more personal to his friend. 

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001
1859–1927, French drypoint etcher and painter. He is best known for his drypoint studies and portraits of fashionable women, which have the spontaneity of rapid sketches. His nearly 1,500 drypoints were often printed in two or more colors. An example of his painting, The Windows of Saint Denis, is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

In 1884 he undertook  to paint the young Alice Louis Guérin, then only aged 14 years old, with whom he fell in love. After a two year courtship her parents relented and the  couple were married. Their first child was "Ellen", later to become one of her fathers favorite models, was born in 1887. 

From: kaylopatafineart

La Belle Epoque (the Beutiful time)
Helleu knew as a young boy in Vannes that he wanted to be an artist and even the premature death of his father and subsequent
loss of financial security did not deter him from seeking an education in the arts in Paris. He enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux
Arts and supported himself with an apprenticeship at the ceramist Theodore Deck where his marvelous plate decorations
established him as a gifted painter of women's portraits. He soon became friends with some of the leading artists of the day,
including Tissot, Whistler, Monet, Sargent, Rodin and Alfred Stevens, who recognized his great talent and encouraged him to
continue his endeavors not only in oils and pastels, but in prints as well. It was, in fact, Tissot, in a state of despair after the
death of Kathleen Newton and determined never to make etchings again, who gave his engraving diamond and tools to Helleu
and effectively opened up a new medium of expression to this budding artist. 

In 1884, Helleu was commissioned to paint a portrait of a young Alice Guérin with whom he fell madly in love and married two
years later. He adored her throughout their life together and the image of Alice and their children was the subject of many of his
drawings and prints. 

In 1886 Helleu had the good fortune to meet le compte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac, who became his patron and introduced him to the aristocracy of Paris. He was very well liked and soon the society ladies were clamoring to have Helleu do their portraits. Soon his client list read like a "Who's Who" of Paris and London with the Duchess of Marlborough and the Countess of Greffulhe among his better known models. 

Helleu's portraits were usually drawn in a large format with sweeping lines and with the face and head occupying most of the space. This style of drawing was very well suited to be printed as a drypoint engraving which emphasized the sketchy quality
without heavy tonalities. Helleu's drypoints were only published in very small editions, often less than 20 examples, and he was
able to maintain very high standards in the quality of the prints. 

Of all the famous and beautiful women whom Helleu immortalized in print, it was his wife whom he drew with the greatest
respect and admiration. His many portraits of the enchanting Alice are among his most outstanding images &endash;
emotionally intimate, delicately colored, and imbued with love. 

Helleu also moved among literary circles and became great friends with Marcel Proust who based the character of the painter
Elstir in "A la recherche du temps perdu" on his friend. He requested Helleu do his portrait on his deathbed &endash; and in
1922 Helleu obliged with a profile done in drypoint. 

Helleu traveled often to England, Holland, and even the United States. In 1912 he received the commission to paint the ceiling
of New York's Grand Central Terminal, a masterpiece which was recently cleaned and restored to the great pleasure of the
commuting public who still pause to look up at his nighttime sky en route to their trains. 

However, by Helleu's last trip to New York, in 1920, the fashion had changed and his popularity had faded. The elegance of
the Belle Epoque had been replaced by the Roaring Twenties and women no longer wished to be portrayed in his elegant,
romantic style. The trip convinced him that he was no longer in touch with the post World War I esthetic and he went into
retirement upon returning to France. He destroyed the copper plates from which his drypoints had been printed and retreated
into his family life. Helleu died of peritonitis in 1927



From: Collector Cafe:

Paul Cesar HELLEU (1859-1927)
By Christina Sanderson
April 14, 2000

Paul César Helleu was born in Vannes, France in 1859. As a young boy he immediately took a passionate interest in art. His father died when Paul César was still young and his mother was not keen on her son following the unstable profession of an artist. Helleu was however, a determined young man and by the age of seventeen he had moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Helleu rejected the classical academic approach to painting that he was taught at art school and instead embraced Impressionism. Helleu formed close friendships with Degas, Rodin, Renoir and particularly Monet who became a close friend and companion.

Helleu’s closest friend was John Singer Sargent and it was he who inspired Helleu to become a portraitist. In 1884, Helleu was invited by  Monsieur and Madame Guérin to execute a portrait of their fourteen year old daughter Alice - Helleu immediately fell madly in love with her. In 1886 they were married, Alice being only sixteen years old. During the early 1890s, Helleu and his young wife were popular figures in the aristocratic circles frequented by the élite of European society. Helleu forged  friendships with many of the greatest authors of the time. Marcel Proust held Helleu in high regard and used him as a model for the artist Elistir in his epic work, A la recherche du temps perdu. Helleu adored the company of beautiful women and was introduced to many elegant, fashionable women who became principle sitters for his portraits.

Helleu’s wife Alice was undoubtedly his favourite model, she was charming, refined and graceful and his portraits of her are drawn with intimate sensitivity. In his portrait of her, Alice Helleu is depicted with her back to the viewer, sitting at a secretaire in her husband’s study, wearing an elegant white dress, which is in harmony with the colours of the room.  Despite the fashion for sombre interiors, Paul and Alice Helleu decorated their homes entirely in shades of white. The walls were white and furniture upholstered in white Louis XIV damask. This innovative design scheme won instant approval from Oscar Wilde and James McNeil Whistler and formed the background for Helleu’s paintings and etchings. 
 (Collector Cafe)

Women prints 
French, 1859 - 1927 
Helleu started his artistic career as a ceramist, but at the age of 17 he came to Paris to study under Gérôme, the academic painter, learning to paint such scenes as landscapes and churches. He soon began his career of painting and etching portraits, for which he is know universally known. His subjects were the sophisticated ladies of the belle époque era - the society described in the novels of Marcel Proust . He was a great wit and dandy and was described by the greatest aesthete of the day, Robert de Montesquieu, as the 'Master of Elegance'. Amongst his close friends were Monet, Whistler, Sargent and particularly J.J.Tissot. Tissot had bee the master etcher of the Belle Époque but he recognized Helleu's great talent in drawing and persuaded him in 1885 to begin making drypoints. To encourage Helleu, Tissot gave him a diamond point which enhanced his unique talent. His prints included the splendid society portraits of elegant ladies in superb hats and the intimate portraits of his own family and close friends. 
In 1904 he was awarded the Legion d'honneur and became one of the most celebrated artists in Paris and London of the Edwardian era and an honorary member of the most important beaux-arts societies. His sitters included the most famous and beautiful women of the times. 
Helleu executed a few hundreds of these drypoint portraits and it is deplorable that no catalogue raisonné exists of these important works. Neither before nor since has anyone matched the virtuosity of his technique of capturing the grace and beauty of his sitters. The edition sizes are not recorded but they varied from about five to perhaps as many as a hundred. 

what is dry Point

In drypoint, the artist "draws" directly on a copper plate with a sharp stylus. No etching is involved. The point of the stylus creates a "burr" of copper on either side as it is scored through the metal. In the printing process, the burr holds additional ink, giving the finished print a velvety richness unique to this method. 

In the United States the La Belle Epoque was expressed most elequantely in the Gibson Girls 


4 paintings at the Boston Fine Arts no images online

Created 2/20/2002