20 January 2016

the Artist's wife...

Mme. in her Salon by Paul Cesar Helleu

Alicia Guérin, future wife of Paul Cesar Helleu was his constant model and muse.
No doubt a beauty, yet there have been many artists who used their wives as models-and many more- less beautiful. When Alice was 14 Helleu was commissioned to paint her-and the pair married two years later. They were in love & Helleu had secured a beautiful model for life.

Celebrated artist in Belle Epoque Paris, with friends like aesthete Robert de Montesquiou, painter friends Jacques Emile Blanche and Degas, Countess Greffulhe, and Proust, Helleu captured Paris's beau monde during the era. Helleu became the model for artist Elstir in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. His friend Walter Gay painted vignettes in the Helleu home, while life long friend John Singer Sargent painted Jacques and Alicia both.

Chez HELLEU~Alicia

The distingue Helleu in his salon 45, Rue Emile Menier, Paris 1890. 
Photograph by Dornac
A Helleu drypoint portrait rests on the settee


the settee...

Mme. Helleu in the Helleu Salon by Paul Helleu

Walter Gay~Chez Helleu
45, Rue Emile Menier
 Walter Gay, 1902.

Walter Gay Chez Helleu, 1909.

Mme. ~ Chez Helleu

...painting the Artist's wife

Helleu & Alicia-by JSS. Helleu is sketching Alicia

Helleu became friends with when he was just 18-and Sargent-four years old was already known as a well known portraitist. After praising Helleu's work, Helleu offered it as a gift. Sargent replied"I shall gladly accept this, Helleu, but not as a gift. I sell my own pictures, and I know what they cost me by the time they are out of my hand. I should never enjoy this pastel if I hadn't paid you a fair and honest price for it." With this he paid him a thousand-franc note.

in the punt, Violet (Sargent's sister) and Alicia, by JSS

...the artist's wife in the Salon

...the escritoire
see the escritoire in the Dornac photograph


...lounging on a chaise

...with Paulette in the Salon

Mme. Helleu appeared on the cover of Femina twice in 1906, this one of her breastfeeding baby Paulette

Hide & Seek 

Madame Helleu reading to Paulette 

Alicia with Paulette looking at Helleu's drawing boards 

Helleu retired to family life after realizing the Belle Epoque was over, but during his day he painted everyone who was anyone- the Duchess of Marlborough,(Consuelo), Madame CasatiHelena Rubenstein, Jeanne Toussaint, Madeleine Chéruit, Gladys Deacon (later another Duchess of Marlborough), Anna de Noailles, Belle Epoque beauty Liane de Pougy, and Coco Chanel. 

HELLEU today

Helleu had suggested Chanel's signature color Beige, of the Biarritz sand. His suggestion remains. Helleu's son Jean went on to be the artistic director of Parfums Chanel- as did his grandson Jacques.

 Chanel by Helleu, and Jacques Helleu of Chanel

Helleu etchings prominently displayed in the beautiful home of Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels's Manhattan apartment, from Architectural Digest, 2011. 

photographs by Roger Davies, here at AD

...my own little Helleu

Links and Sources:
Daily Telegraph here
NYSD here
Helleu.org here
Open Library here
& Pinterest here
Wiki here
Slate Magazine here


  1. A total enchantement. Thank you for so much Beauty.

  2. Love this post, Gaye! I have always loved Helleu. We own a beautiful one at the Dixon called La Derniere Touche, which we suspect to be a depiction of his wife.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing!

    1. Julie, I have too-and there are some great drawings of his I have copies of his portraits of American Beauties he did when he visited. I will get those out soon. Thank you for reading.

  3. I'm not sure if my prior post went through so just to say, j' adore Helleu, Sargent, Boldini and Blanche! Similar poses of languid lashed eyes, thin necks, aquiline noses and piled high hair and feathers! Like Samuel Pepys or Chips Channon...they visually chronicled a period. Olga Carraciolo, later Baroness de Meyer, was painted with the same pose as a teen by Jacque Emile Blanche, cascading hair being the main feature! Helleu's portrait of the now almost forgotten Belle de Costa Greene, librarian to and former flame of J.P. Morgan is at the Morgan Library, though never exhibited...a jewel, her beauty set many aflame as captured by Helleu...she even entranced the famed and fickle Bernard Berenson.

    1. The Blanche portrait you mention-I've posted about years back in conjunction with a story about Marella Angelli. It is beautiful and yes! the pose is so similar. I too love the era, and these artists' paintings say it all. pbt

  4. Lovely, lovely post! I adored the whole thing.....but especially that treasure that belongs to you!
    How lucky you are.....and I am sure he is delighted you have it....wherever in heaven he is residing!

    Gorgeous....and so filled with love and adoration....all of it!

  5. As a redhead, did I find even an extra bit of joy in this beautiful post? Perhaps. ;) Thank you so much for this (for me) Sunday morning inspiration...

    1. I am extremely partial to redheads and so wanted my brown hair to be like my father's. His was a red dark mahogany red. So pretty. I love redheads! pgt



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