In 1930 Time Magazine wrote:
In Manhattan last week there opened an exhibition of the paintings of Hélène Perdriat. Because Editor Donald Freeman had already discovered her to the readers of Vanity Fair, the show was patronized by an élite and knowing clientele. The event was significant, however, not because Alicia DuPont, Mrs. Amy Whitney, Mrs. T. W. Duke, Mrs. William Brush, Mrs. James Bartholomew and their like graced the occasion, but because it introduced to the U. S. the bizarre and beautiful artistry of a young and almost legendary French painter.
Hélène Perdriat has been a painter for seven years. Before that she grew up in the ancient waterfront town of La Rochelle where the talk of sailors, returned from the tropics, filled her mind with interior horizons of palms and soapy waves and yellow beaches unlike all the beaches she had ever seen. At 20, she went to Paris with an idea of writing. She fell in love with a young man who died of consumption. When she, in the proper tradition of such romance, had fallen consequently ill herself, she felt, for the first time in her life, the need to paint.
It has been said that the success of Perdriat resembles that of a cinema actress, in its brevity, its monetary aspect, its exaggerations. Her first painting, a landscape done with her finger nails and bits of cotton, was immediately acquired by the Queen of Norway. The queer Perdriat legend promptly began, a legend fostered by that somewhat anonymous and powerful group, "her friends," who apparently had been already convinced of her genius and were waiting only for the opportunity to lavish praises on its fruits.
The Perdriat "legend" is supported by certain facts, remote from the facts of her painting. Well off, she lives expensively, smartly at Auteuil. Her servants are tropical Negroes; her parties are dignified by names, as "Une Nuit Créole." Her pictures sell as fast as she can turn them off her easel. She has never painted a man, only young women with long, equivocal eyes like her own. She had never painted a blonde girl until she visited Norway two years ago and met one she admired. She once sent to the Salon D'Automne a self portrait, nude except for black silk stockings. For all social functions she plasters her face and paints a masque on it, a masque for whatever mood she is feeling. The brunettes in her paintings are nearly always herself. She has never taken a drawing lesson.
In the pictures which hung last week on the walls of the Chambrun gallery, against the imagined landscape of all Perdriat's paintings there appeared the figures of languid, self-contained and luxurious girls. Most were portraits of Perdriat or her Norwegian friend; a few were groups; one was a scene from some placid and improbable bawdy house, in which five harlots were drinking and playing cards beneath a cloud of afternoon sun.
Hélène Perdriat has never visited the U. S. She may do so next spring. Her pictures, violently collected in Europe, have not been extensively assembled in the U. S. before last week. Twelve are owned by Arthur Taylor Aldis of Chicago.