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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Helena Rubinstein in a red brocade Balenciaga gown

1957
Graham Sutherland

oil on canvas (frame: 174.4 cm x 111.0 cm depth 6.7 cm, support: 156.8 cm x 92.7 cm)

Helena Rubinstein (1870?-1965), cosmetician, businesswoman and collector, arrived in Coleraine, western Victoria, from Kraków in 1896. When local women admired her skin, she is said to have set about importing pots of face cream made by a chemist in Poland, later described as ‘the celebrated Russian skin specialist Dr Lykuski’. In Melbourne, in 1902, she gained sundry loans to establish a beauty salon. There, she sold Crème Valaze, said to include rare herbs from the Carpathian Mountains, but probably comprising mostly wool fat sourced from local druggists Felton Grimwade and Co. In late 1905 she established the Valaze Institute in Collins Street, offering various beauty treatments administered by her sisters. Having expanded to Sydney and New Zealand, in 1908 she departed with £100 000, to open modern salons in London and Paris. Fleeing wartime France, she opened in New York in 1916; other stand-alone salons followed, and she established a presence in various department stores while maintaining brand and marketing control. After the war, she returned to Paris, where she collected modern art, African and Oceanic sculpture and jewellery. In 1953 she established the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, which funded Tel Aviv’s Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, and also the Helena Rubinstein travelling art scholarship in Australia, which she last visited in 1957. In 1964 she published her nonagenarian memoirs, My Life for Beauty.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC, Tim Fairfax AC and the Sid and Fiona Myer Family Foundation 2015
© Estate of Graham Sutherland

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Audio description

3 minutes 11 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Graham Sutherland (age 54 in 1957)

Helena Rubinstein (age 87 in 1957)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Supported by

Tim Fairfax AC (53 portraits supported)

Marilyn Darling AC (30 portraits supported)

Sid and Fiona Myer Family Foundation (6 portraits supported)

Related information

Little faces

10:30am, Wed 23 Jun – Fri 25 Jun

Little faces is for babies and toddlers (with their grown up) to play, sing and have fun discovering a portrait together.

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Study in scarlet

Magazine article by Angus Trumble, 2018

Angus Trumble reflects on the force of nature that was Helena Rubinstein.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency