Paul Cesar Helleu was a French oil painter, pastel artist, drypoint etcher and designer, best known for his numerous portraits of beautiful society women of the Belle Epoque. He also conceived the ceiling mural of night sky constellations for Grand Central Terminal in New York City which was covered in 1930’s; and more than 60 years later, in 1998, was completely restored to be marveled at today. He was born in Vannes, Brittany, France. He studied at Lycee Chaptal and at age 16 was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, training with Jean-Leon Gerome. He took a job hand-painting decorative plates to survive and pay his way. When he was 18 he met John Singer Sargent and established a close friendship that lasted his lifetime.
Helleu was commissioned to paint a portrait of a young woman named Alice Guerin in 1884; they fell in love and married and she was his favorite model throughout their lives. Some of his other noteworthy subjects include the Duchess of Marlborough, the Marchesa Casati and Helena Rubenstein.
In 1994 Helleu was awarded the Legion d’Honneur and became one of the most celebrated artists of the Edwardian Era in both Paris and London. He was a member of the International Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, headed Rodin, and the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
Helleu died of peritonitis in Paris following surgery in 1927 at the age of 67.