Edmund Dulac changed the art world as we know it.
A select few illustrators make up what we now refer to as the “golden age of illustration”, a time period between 1880s-1920s of superb book, magazine, and newspaper illustrations. Illustrated books became a favorite media at the time, leading to long-living, valued illustrations that are still favorites today. We’ve written about Arthur Rackham, but the other illustrators also deserve recognition.
Another such illustrator from the golden age was Edmund Dulac, a French artist.
Although Dulac started his studies in law, he quickly became bored and switched to studying art full-time. This seems like a good idea in retrospect, considering he was able to get his first commission at the young age of 22, for 60 illustrations in an edition of Jane Eyre. Dulac soon moved to London to continue his career.
The company Hodder & Stoughton purchased the rights to his paintings, which they used in their illustrated books. These books were published once a year.
Dulac’s favorite subjects to illustrate were fantasy and fiction elements from classic stories. He illustrated such stories as Stories from The Arabian Nights, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales, Stories from Hans Christian Anderson, and The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe.
Dulac strayed away from the more popular colored ink drawings at the time (a technique used most notably by Arthur Rackham). Instead, he used his preference for painting to let color define the subject. The new printing presses at the time were conveniently ready just in time to accommodate the color separation.
Dulac’s technique changed in the mid-1910s, when his illustrations went from romantic, subdued colors into more oriental styles.
The golden age of illustration came to an end after the first World War. People were no longer entranced by these illustrated books. Dulac had no choice but to move on to other subjects.
And move on he did, going on to work on such things as newspaper caricatures, portraits, theater design, bookplates, and much more.
He also designed postage stamps for Great Britain, including contributions to the first stamps of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Book editions with Dulac’s work can still be found today, and they have aged well, still acting as timeless examples of illustration’s golden age.