Paul César Helleu (17 December 1859 – 23 March 1927) was a French oil painter, pastel artist, drypoint etcher, and designer, best known for his numerous portraits of beautiful society women of the Belle Époque. He also conceived the ceiling mural of night sky constellations for Grand Central Terminal in New York City. He was also the father of Jean Helleu and the grandfather of Jacques Helleu, both artistic directors for Parfums Chanel.
Paul Helleu's name brings up impressions of a whole era, particularly the end of the XIXth century and its mundane society until the First World War period, which Marcel Proust so admirably described in his works.
The delicacy, the taste and the very personal talent of Helleu as a draftsman widely contributed to his extraordinary success as an artist. His celebrity rests on the brilliant representation of attractive women from the Paris high society, but also from the international high society, dominated by Anglo-Saxon elegance.
Art history has had a tendency to restrict his talent and his works to a whimsical fashion of his period, failing to take into account that a wide range of his artistic production was dedicated to the painting of nature, seascapes in particular, where refinement blends with the mastery of real artist’s sensitivity and acumen.