The younger sister of the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène was born in Paris in 1910. She attended evening Life classes at the Academy in Montparnasse and later the Academy “Colarossi.” Hélène de Beauvoir got to know Jean Paul Sartre during her studies and met her future husband, Lionel de Roulet, a pupil of Sartre’s,whilst on a train ride to Spain to visit her sister, Simone and Jean Paul Sartre.
She painted in her very sparse atelier..”a cube of ice in Winter and a oven in Summer” as her sister, Simone writes in her autobiography. Hélène worked in the Galerie Bonjean as a secretary in 1935, where she met Salvador Dali during his chocolate clocks phase. After a trip to Florence, Rome, Naples and Capri she had a solo exhibition at the Galerie Bonjean where Picasso was quite taken up with her work. She spent a month in Portugal in 1940, where she was inspired by the salt works, crystals and the reflections. In 1942 she married Lionel de Roulet, who founded the French cultural Institute Algarve. They lived in many places, moving around Europe often as he was a diplomat. Thus she was inspired by Lisbon, Vienna, Paris, Belgrade, Casablanca and Milan, she hold exhibitions in Spain, Italy, France and Japan.
On a cruise from Yokohama to Russia in 1970, she happened to meet Ludwig Hammer, who still runs a gallery in Regensburg. They remained very good family friends.
Since 1971 she exhibited extensively in Boston, New York, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lausanne among others. In 1983 she held her first exhibition at Galerie Hammer, showing her watercolours. This was followed by exhibitions in USA, Spain, Italy and France. Her husband, Lionel died in 1990, but she carried on with her work, exhibiting in Brussels, Paris, Munich and in 1993 again at the Galerie Hammer in Regensburg.
She died in 2001 and left the first choice of her works to her good friend, Ludwig Hammer of the Galerie Hammer in Regensburg. Her work has been exhibited posthume in Munich, Regensburg, Paris, Pilsen and in many other cities in Europe like in Portugal.
According to Jean Paul Sartre, her work is the fruit of a long search for truth – she was inspired by nature but found her way between pure representation and dry abstraction. Colour and Form were her tools to depict an abstract world she brought to life.
Excerpt of Sartre’s article in the Exhibition catalogue, Brest 1970.
I was fortunate to be able to visit the Hammer Galerie in Regensburg recently. Ludwig Hammer, a close friend of Hélène de Beauvoir and her husband Lionel de Roulet has an extensive collection of her works and has created a website about her and her work. One sees many changes in her style, but seeing that she painted for many decades it was all in her search for progress. I took some time to look at the wide range of paintings there and on the web. I liked the freshness in her later works in acryl: “Les Elégantes” from 1991 and “Femmes à la rivière” from 1983. Her Venice series were also very interesting in their colours and forms. The intern working at the Gallery was well informed and very friendly. Mr. Hammer also seemed a sympathetic sort and surely would have been an interesting interview partner.
If anyone is interested in researching her work for a thesis, there seems to be much scope, as little is known of her work in Budapest. If you are interested you could contact Mr. Hammer who could help you further along the line.
Bibliography: The Pamphlet “Hélène de Beauvoir” by the Galerie Hammer, Regensburg.
The Gallery is in the Untere Bachgasse 6.
Opening times of the gallery: 12:00 p.m. to 18:00 p.m.
If you are planning to visit Regensburg, check out their website.