Helena Rubinstein Exhibit at Musée d’Art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris

Helena Rubinstein Exhibit at Musée d’Art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris

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In the factory Saint-Cloud, 1924. Credit: Archives Helena Rubinstein-L’Oreal-DR

“There are no ugly women, just lazy ones.” –Helena Rubinstein

For the first time in France, the Musée d’Art et d’histoire du Judaïsme (MAHJ) curates an intriguing exhibition in homage to Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965.)

Chaya Rubinstein, one of thirteen children, born into a modest Orthodox Jewish family in Kraków, created a brand and cosmetics empire, reinventing beauty by adapting it to the modern world, a visionary who wanted to empower women with her lotions and potions. Refusing an arranged marriage her parents decided to send her to live with family in Australia. In her luggage– what was to become the foundation of an empire: 12 pots of her mother’s home made face cream. And, during the voyage she changed the name on her identity papers to Helena Juliet Rubinstein.

Voyage to Australia. Archives Helena Rubinstein-L’Oreal-DR

With the creams and recipe, HR studied – then applied science to cosmetics and, in 1902, opened her first beauty salon in Melbourne. It’s still there today – the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1935, acquiring the license for the first waterproof mascara, Helena Rubinstein launched it with an aquatic ballet at New York World’s Fair in 1939. Still a bestseller, long lash waterproof mascara is available online and at 129 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the 8th arrondissement.

Valaze Cream. Credit: Archives Helena Rubinstein

She was twice married; first to American/Polish journalist Edward Titus and, in 1938, becoming Princess Gourielli with her second husband Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia. Madame, as she was known, collected art and posed for Raoul Dufy, Salvador Dalí and Marie Laurencin, wearing the creations of top couturiers of her time (Poiret, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior) dividing life between New York, London and Paris, the city she particularly loved.

Archives Helena Rubinstein-L’Oreal-DR

In Paris her vast art collection ranged from the painters of the School of Paris to Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and George Braque. Passionately interested in architecture and the decorative arts, she commissioned architects of the Modern Movement to design her beauty salons and buildings.

Encouraged by her success, Madame had a laboratory built at Saint Cloud to produce her creams industrially, replaced by a factory in the early 1930s. She created makeup for Josephine Baker, star of La Revue Nègre, and cosmetics suitable for all types of skin. In Paris flea markets she sourced antique powder compacts and boxes – had them copied for her beauty products – bringing cosmetics, formerly the preserve of prostitutes and actresses, into the mainstream.

Helena Rubinstein with Salvador Dali in Paris. Archives Helena Rubinstein- L’Oreal- DR

In 1988 the brand was acquired by L’Oreal. “Madame showed women how to take care of themselves, always mindful that beauty, ‘this new power,’ should accompany their emancipation,” explains Michèle Fitoussi, the exhibition’s curator, author of Helena Rubinstein. The Woman who Invented Beauty (Gallic Books, 2013).

Portrait of Helena Rubinstein in 1953. Paris Archives Helena Rubinstein-L’Oreal-DR

The exhibition, “Helena Rubinstein. The Adventure of Beauty,” showcases the life of an exceptional woman in the cities that played key roles in her life: Kraków, Vienna, Melbourne, London, Paris, New York and Tel Aviv. Featuring more than 300 exhibits from her eclectic collection of objects, garments, photographs, etchings, books, paintings, sculptures and tapestries, there are pieces by Marc Chagall, Michel Kikoïne, Sarah Lipska, Louis Marcoussis, Elie Nadelman and Maurice Utrillo – the show records the life and career of the woman dubbed “the empress of beauty,” by Jean Cocteau.

Madame died in New York on 1st April, 1965 aged 93 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Queens.

Cannes 1995 with sister Stella & Pablo Picasso Paris. Archives Helena Rubinstein-L’Oreal- DR

Complementary events accompany the exhibition. In the MAHJ auditorium: themed visits Sunday 12th May, 2019 at 11h, Thursday 4th July and Friday 23 August at 14h30 a walk entitled “Helena Rubinstein’s Paris.” Plus children’s workshops.

Showing until 25th August 2019. Closed 1st May. Tues-Thurs-Friday from 11h-18h. Wednesday – 11h-21h. Saturday-Sunday 10h-19h.
Entry €10
Catalogue – published jointly with Flammarion (€35)
Hôtel Saint-Aignan, 71 rue du Temple, 3rd. Metro: Hôtel de Ville
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 01 86 65
www.mahj.org

Where to eat?
Auberge Nicolas Flamel (since 1407) excellent cuisine by Alan Geeam. Madame would approve! 51 rue de Montmorency, Tel: +33 (0)1 42 71 77 78

Helena Rubinstein. Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld, 1955, The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend It.com, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !

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