Artist biography

Paul Helleu 1859-1927

French painter and engraver, born at Vannes (Morbihan). Studied from 1876 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Gérôme, becoming very friendly with Sargent, who was a fellow-pupil; early developed an enthusiasm for Manet and the Impressionists. Friendships also with Whistler, Stevens, Boldini, Monet, Blanche, and later with Edmond de Goncourt, Robert de Montesquiou and Marcel Proust. Painted plates for the ceramist Deck until 1890 to make a living. Began to work in oil, then turned to pastel and, above all, printmaking; made over 2000 drypoints, some in two or three colours, as well as a number of lithographs. First one-man exhibition at Robt. Dunthorne's Gallery, London, 1896. Chiefly noted for his studies of elegant women, for which his wife often served as model; also made many studies of his own children. His oil paintings, which are comparatively little known, include pictures akin to Manet and Whistler of girls on yachts, and regattas, painted at Trouville, Deauville and Cowes, views of the deserted gardens at Versailles and still lifes of flowers. Died in Paris. He was the model for Elstir in Proust's A la Recherche du Temps perdu.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.360