Paul César Helleu – Ellen à la lecture (Ellen Reading)

Out of stock

Transfer lithograph in colours on grey paper, circa 1902/03. Printed signature (lower left,) numbered ’64’ in pencil (bottom left corner). Displayed in modern wash-lined mount.



The sitter in the portrait is the artist’s eldest daughter Ellen, born in 1887. The original drawing for this print dates from around 1902/03 and was sold at Drouot Auction House in Paris, on the 28th June 2015; Lot No 7.

Helleu’s main medium for printing was the drypoint, his lithographs are less common. The advantage of lithography over the other manual printing processes was that the image could be created on another surface and transferred to the stone. This bought added convenience in many different ways. The image could be drawn the right way round (it would become reversed when transferred, and reversed back again in printing), this meant that the bulky stone did not have to be brought to wherever the artist was working. Ink patterns or tonal devices achieved more conveniently in some other medium could be applied to selected parts of the stone, such as the signature in our print which is lacking in the drawing sold at Drouot.

Additional information


17 7/8 in x 13 3/8 in. (45.5 cm x 34 cm.)

Window of mount:

16 7/8 in x 13 in. (43 cm x 33 cm.)

Frame or Mount

Mount: 24 9/16 in x 20 1/16 in. (62.4 cm x 51 cm.)


Helleu, Paul César (1859-1927)

Paul César Helleu is a French painter born in Vannes. At 17, he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, in the studio of the famous orientalist painter Gérôme. However, his interest was rather for outdoor painting, very popular in the nineteenth century. He befriended Whistler and then with Claude Monet whom he met at the merchant Durand-Ruel. He was also very close to the collector and man of letters, Robert de Montesquiou. In 1884, Helleu received Madame Guérin's order for the portrait of her 14-year-old daughter, Alice, who will become his wife. These are his beginnings as a portrait painter. At the end of the nineteenth century, the painter had already initiated too many different subjects: portraits, the landscape of Versailles, the Marines but he is also the author of stained glass cathedrals. He met Marcel Proust who became his friend and who inspired him the character of the painter Elster in Search of Lost Time. His work appeared as innovative in the eyes of his contemporaries. Elegance and grace were characteristic in his works, an integral part of his creation, and this is certainly what made his international recognition (especially in Paris, London and New York). Her portraits of elegant women have been very successful in the United States. He even received an order for the hall ceiling of the Grand Central Terminal in New York. His work is composed of many portraits, painted or engraved, which translate well the time when bourgeois confronted and industrial civilization. His daughter Paulette Howard-Johnson (deceased in 2009) bequeathed the entire collection from his father's workshop at the Bonnat Museum in Bayonne, now the Bonnat-Helleu Museum.