Sunday, July 23, 2006

Edmund Dulac

Edmund Dulac
French illustrator Edmund Dulac began his career in the first decade of the 20th Century, just as the new technology of color separation was making the economical printing of color book plates possible.

Dulac moved to London because of the publishing opportunities and was soon working as an illustrator in the new genre of illustrated gift books, in which color plates, printed on special coated paper that accommodated the new printing process, were “tipped in”, or placed between pages rather than being bound into the spine.

His style shows some obvious influence of Arthur Rackham, an influence that eventually traveled both ways, and I think he and Rackham were probably influenced by Swedish Illustrator John Bauer.

However the influences travelled, the result was that Rackham and Dulac became the dominant figures in this new area and developed wonderful illustration styles that still enchant readers today.

Unlike Rackham, who was making a transition from the old color process , in which a black ink line was needed to “hold” the color and hide the effects of misregistration of the color plates, Dulac started with the new, more accurate process which allowed him to work without the ink lines, which he did for many of his early works, working largely in watercolor and gouache. He eventually came to use outlines more as a nod to the expectations of the market than a technical limitation.

Dulac did memorable illustrations for classics like The Arabian Nights, The Rubiat of Omar Kayyam, and fairy tales like The Sleeping Beauty, The Snow Queen, Cinderella,, Little Mermaid, and Bluebeard. He also illustrated an edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe.

There are some books available including Dulac’s Fairy Tale Illustrations in Full Color, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the very inexpensive Dover postcard book, Dulac’s Illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales: 24 Cards. Also look for A Treasury of the Great Children’s Book Illustrators by Susan E. Meyer, a treasure trove of great illustration from the “Golden Age” including Dulac, Walter Crane, John Tenniel, Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, among others.

Dulac’s charming, beautifully drawn and wonderfully colored images are what fairy tale illustration is all about.

10 thoughts on “Edmund Dulac

  1. Robin

    Thanks for the info.
    I have been a fan of Dulac’s for a long time.
    Years ago, I had the good luck to find an original 1904(?) printing of The Arabian Nights. Despite the US $250 price tag and our meager resources, my wife bought it for me for Xmas soon after. Though the images are small (most are about 10 X 15cm) the reproductions are excellent and there are dozens of them. The condition of the binding was somewhat rough and I have considered removing the illustrations and framing them, but to do this properly would cost thousands and ruin the book.
    I have also found a few used copies of collected works, but the reproduction is usually ugly. His use of color, in particular, seems to be very delicate and is probably difficult to reproduce without meticulous printing.

  2. Mike

    I “stumbled” upon an interesting fotenote to Edmund Dulac’s artistic past. I recently purchased 7 Theodore Haviland (Limoges, France)plates with fish scenes that were HAND PAINTED BY Edmumd Dulac.
    These plates are dated 1903, have been verified as hand painted, and are signed “Dulac”. He was employed within Haviland’s stable of artists for one year, before moving to England in 1904.
    I invite someone to share their Dulac signed Haviland plates with me….. Thanks

  3. Charley Parker Post author

    Robin,

    Thanks for the insight into that printing. I think you’re right about the difficulty of reproducing Dulac. He seemed to be taking advantage of the advanaces in printing tech at the time and pushing it to the limit.

  4. anthony govoni

    when i was young my mother gave me a scadinavian book called snow queen very well drawn one picture in it i remember is of a frozen girl in woods kneeling feeding animals she was frozen in time animals all near her long hair a beautiful blue skin have you seen or heard of such a book it was an inch and half to 2 inches thick hard covered thanks

  5. Raymond

    Hello,
    Thank you for the very interesting information on Edmund Dulac. Many years ago I was given the original drawing for his theatre poster of Robert Lorraine as “Cyrano” at the Ambassadors Theatre. It is currently being restored, (it was faded and mounted on board), and would be interested to know more about it.

  6. Susan

    I have a book Sinbad the Sailor and other stories from the Arabian Nights illustrated byEdmund Dulac. It is 11″ x 8 1/2″ 223 pages. The cover has what looks like green flowers with a gold castle and boat it is illustrated with 22 color illustrations,
    The only info. is in the back of the bookEngraved and Printed by Henry Stone &son Banbury. I would love info, when published,value and anything else.
    Thank you,
    Susan

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