Paul-César Helleu, ‘Portrait de Kiki Preston (Alice Gwynne)’, 1900, Galerie d'Orsay

Kiki Preston, née Alice Gwynne (1898 - December 23, 1946) was an American socialite, a member of the Happy Valley Set and the alleged mother of a child with Prince George, Duke of Kent fourth son of King George V. She was a fixture of the Paris and New York high social circles, and a relation to the powerful Vanderbilt and Whitney families

Preston is referenced in James Fox's best-selling investigative non-fiction book White Mischief (1982). Together with other personalities of the Happy Valley set, she appears as a fictional character in Paul Di Fillipo's short story "A Happy Valley at the End of the World", included in the author's collection of short stories Lost Pages (1998). She also appears as a character in Clint Jefferies' play African Nights. The play is set in the Happy Valley community in Kenya, in the year 1928 and portrays, among other things, the romance between Kiki and Prince George. From May to June 2004, the play was performed at the Wings Theater in New York. Kiki was portrayed by actress Karen Stanion.

Signature: Signed upper right Helleu

Commissioned from the artist by the sitter; by descent to the current owner.

About Paul-César Helleu

Paul-César Helleu captured the gaiety of the Belle-Epoque with his society portraits of beautiful young women (he rarely depicted anyone else) drawn in large format with sweeping lines. Classifying his work along the lines of “posed portraits”, “portraits seized in a moment”, or “intricate affectionate studies”, he produced formal compositions, family scenes, and nudes, both in outdoor and interior settings. He worked in the newly popular medium of printmaking, eventually adopting drypoint etching as his preferred technique because it has the spontaneity of rapid sketches. Over the course of his career, Helleu created over 1,500 color and black-and-white prints, many in editions of only one or two. He is heralded for capturing the soft fibers of the furs and plumes that adorned his fashionable subjects.

French, 1859-1927, Vannes, France, based in Paris, France

Fair History on Artsy

Christopher Kingzett Fine Art at Masterpiece London 2017