Paul Helleu

 

Artist Biography:

Degas described Paul-César Helleu as "Le Watteau de Vapeur", and this fine artist’s works certainly display a vitality of drawing and a supreme elegance which may be compared with Watteau. Helleu was in great demand to paint the most famous and elegant figures from the aristocratic, intellectual and artistic communities of his day, initially in Paris and then from the international community. He worked mainly in pencil and red chalk, but did execute some fully-coloured pastels and his engravings are amongst the finest of the period. While his reputation was made from drawings of princesses and society ladies - oil paintings by him are rare - Helleu often depicted his own wife and children and these pieces are especially popular today. Sometimes he showed them with the same aristocratic elegance of his more eminent sitters, and at other times he used more relaxed and intimate surroundings. He also often combined a number of different studies of their heads on one sheet of paper. In recent years the obvious charm of his work has led to originals becoming highly sought after in England, the United States and Japan, as well as in his native France and prices at auction have leaped. His oil paintings are comparatively scarce, and at least two oils have sold for over £200,000, whilst one of his chalk drawings sold in May 1989 for nearly £140,000.

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