Helga Kessler Aurisch was born in Germany but moved to New York with her family at the age of ten. She attended Smith College and subsequently pursued graduate studies at the University of Vienna, Austria, and at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where she received her M.A. and Ph.D. in art history. She began her career at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with the exhibition The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era. In 2000 she co-organized the exhibition of German paintings from Houston’s sister city of Leipzig, entitled Romantics, Realists, Revolutionaries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
She joined the staff of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2004 and has brought numerous exhibitions to Houston, including, The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1800-1920, German Impressionist Landscape Painting: Liebermann – Corinth – Slevogt, and Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Washington. Her most recent projects were Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River and High Society: The Portraits of Franz X. Winterhalter, which is currently on view at the Château de Compiègne, near Paris.
She has published widely and is a frequent lecturer on 19th century painting.