The portraits by Helleu are among the most charming records of the elegance and style that reigned in France at the turn of the century. He painted some of the most famous women of his day exemplified by the Duchess of Marlborough, the Countess of Greffulhe and Belle da Costa Greene. In fact, the artist met his future wife, Alice Guerin, while painting her portrait in 1884.
A close friend of John Singer Sargent, he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts as a pupil of Jean-Leon Gerome. In 1904 he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur and became one of the most celebrated artists of the Edwardian era in both Paris and London. In 1912 he completed the astrological ceiling decoration in New York City's Grand Central Station.