Lot 132
  • 132

PAUL CÉSAR HELLEU | Madame Helleu à Fladbury chez John Singer Sargent

Estimate
80,000 - 120,000 GBP
Sold
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Description

  • Paul César Helleu
  • Madame Helleu à Fladbury chez John Singer Sargent
  • signed Helleu (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 54 by 73 cm., 21¼ by 28¾in.

Provenance

John Singer Sargent (possibly a gift from the artist)
(Possibly) Sale: Christie’s, London, Pictures of the late John Singer Sargent, R.A., 24th & 27th July 1925, lot 290 (titled A Female Model Reading)
Paul César Helleu (the artist, possibly acquired from the above)
Paulette Howard-Johnston (1904 - 2009; the artist's daughter, by inheritance from the above)
Sale: Christie's, London, 22 June 1990, lot 22
Richard Green Fine Art, London (by 1991)
Private collection, UK (acquired in 2010)

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Paul Helleu, 1931, no. 32
Dieppe, Musée de Dieppe, Paul Helleu, 1962, no. 6
London, Richard Green Fine Art, Paul César Helleu 1859-1927, An Exhibition of Oils, Pastels and Drypoints, May 1991, no. 52, illustrated in the catalogue
Osaka, Tokyo, Kitakyushu, Women of Fashion, French and American Images of Leisure, 1880-1920, 1994, no. 17, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Barbican Art Gallery, Impressionism in Britain, 1995, no. 97, illustrated in the catalogue

Literature

Frédérique De Watrigant, Paul-César Helleu, Paris, 2014, pp. 98-99, catalogued & illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted during the summer of 1889, John Signer Sargent invited a group of guests to stay at his house at Fladbury near Pershore.  Notable among the invitees were his good friends Paul Helleu and his wife Alice. It was at this time, inspired and challenged by Sargent, that Helleu painted the present work, a dramatic departure from his earlier canvases. A lovely woman in fine dress in a well-appointed room was not an unusual subject for Helleu or, for that matter, Sargent.  Known as a great dandy, described by the greatest aesthete of the day, Robert de Montesquieu, as the 'Master of Elegance,' Helleu was recognized for his splendid society portraits of elegant ladies in fancy hats and the intimate portraits of his own family and close friends. Yet Madame Helleu marks her husband's introduction of more modern elements: the creamy pale greens and blues of the palette, loosely constructed forms built with visible brushstrokes, and a flattened pictorial space. Certainly works completed by Sargent such as Two Girls with parasols at Fladbury and Two Girls on a Lawn (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) hold clear parallels to Helleu's later canvases. Both Sargent and Helleu had recently been introduced to Claude Monet at Giverney; while they did not entirely adopt an impressionistic palette or deconstruct the human form to the same extent, they clearly were experimenting with the art movement's tenants. This is evident in Madame Helleu: the placement of Alice at the edge of the picture space, built up in a series of fluid, flowing, energetic brush strokes; and the artist's ability to evoke character by the posture of a sitter, rapid-fire application of paint and the sketch-like finish of Impressionism.  Despite Madame's calm repose, the somewhat radical construction of the canvas and the glimmering waterscape seen through the window provide a new vitality to Helleu's oeuvre and the understanding of this period of experimentation—a modernist strain he chose not to maintain as strongly in future works.

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