FINE ART INVESTMENTS SINCE 1978
Paul César HELLEU
Title: "Dormeuse sur un Canape"
Medium: Original Drypoint Etching
Framed Size: 27" X 33"
Paul Ce´sar Helleu worked as a painter and an engraver in France at the turn of the century. His work
epitomises the charm and elegance of French culture at the time – the belle e´poque. He gained
renown for his portraits of society ladies on commission, but a true graceful sensitivity arises out of
his portraits of his wife, Alice. He met Alice Guerin when she was only fourteen, and obeyed her
parents’ wishes to wait for her to turn 16 to get married and lived at home two years after that.
Helleu was born in Vannes in 1859 and moved to Paris as a young man. He later became a pupil of
Jean Leon Ge´rome at the E´cole Nationale des Beaux-Arts and became a lifelong friend of fellow
student John Singer Sargent. Ge´rome was to buy his first painting. Artists including Monet, Rodin
and Tissot also recognised his talent whilst he was studying in Paris (he was later formally accepted
as part of the Impressionist group). In fact, Tissot gave Helleu his own engraving tools because he
was in such despair after the death of his beloved Kathleen Newton that he was unable to use them to
make art. As a result, Helleu became an excellent drypoint engraver and one can see those skills for
draughtsmanship and fine line work in this particular drawing.
Helleu immortalised many beautiful women in paint and graphite because he became the darling of
fashionable, aristocratic ladies at the time (including Coco Chanel). Perhaps what makes him all the
more appealing to the modern viewer is that, despite this, he was not a cad; throughout their lives
together, his favourite model was his wife.