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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.

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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

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.
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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)

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

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.

Helena Rubinstein in a red brocade Balenciaga gown
Helena Rubinstein in a red brocade Balenciaga gown
Helena Rubinstein in a red brocade Balenciaga gown
Helena Rubinstein in a red brocade Balenciaga gown

Study in scarlet

Magazine article by Angus Trumble, 2018

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

Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas

Uncommon Australians

The vision of Gordon and Marilyn Darling

Previous exhibition, 2015

This exhibition showcases portraits acquired through the generosity of the National Portrait Gallery’s Founding Patrons, L Gordon Darling AC CMG and Marilyn Darling AC.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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