Edmund Dulac was a French-British magazine illustrator, book illustrator and stamp designer. Born in Toulouse he studied law but later turned to the study of art at the École des Beaux-Arts. He moved to London in the early 20th century and in 1905 received his first commission which was to illustrate the novels of the Brontë Sisters. During World War I, Dulac produced relief books and when after the war he turned to mainly magazine illustrations. He designed banknotes during World War II and postage stamps, most notably, during the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
At 22 Dulac was commissioned by the publisher J. M. Dent to illustrate Jane Eyre and nine other volumes of works by the Brontë sisters. He then became a regular contributor to The Pall Mall Magazine, and joined the London Sketch Club, which introduced him to the book and magazine illustrators of the day. Through these connections he began an association with the Leicester Galleries and Hodder & Stoughton. The gallery commissioned illustrations from Dulac which they sold in an annual exhibition, while publishing rights to the paintings were taken up by Hodder & Stoughton for reproduction in illustrated gift books. Books produced under this arrangement by Dulac include Stories from The Arabian Nights (1907) with 50 colour images; an edition of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1908) with 40 colour illustrations; The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1909) with 20 colour images; The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales (1910); Stories from Hans Christian Andersen (1911); The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (1912) with 28 colour images and many monotone illustrations; and Princess Badoura (1913).
During World War I he contributed to relief books, including King Albert’s Book (1914), Princess Mary’s Gift Book, and, his own Edmund Dulac’s Picture-Book for the French Red Cross (1915) including 20 colour images. Hodder and Stoughton also published The Dreamer of Dreams (1915) including 6 colour images – a work composed by the then Queen of Romania.
After the war, the deluxe edition illustrated books became a rarity and Dulac’s career in this field was over. His last such books were Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book (1916), the Tanglewood Tales (1918) and The Kingdom of the Pearl (1920). His career continued in other areas, including newspaper caricatures (especially at The Outlook), portraiture, theatre costume and set design, bookplates, chocolate boxes, medals, and various graphics (especially for The Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill Gate).
He also produced illustrations for The American Weekly, a Sunday newspaper chain in America and Britain’s Country Life. Country Life Limited (London) published Gods and Mortals in Love (1935) (including 9 colour images) based on a number of the contributions made by Dulac to Country Life previously. The Daughter of the Stars (1939) was a further publication to benefit from Dulac’s artwork – due to constraints related to the outbreak of World War II, that title included just 2 colour images. He continued to produce books for the rest of his life, more so than any of his contemporaries, although these were less frequent and less lavish than during the Golden Age.
Dulac also designed postage stamps for Great Britain, including the postage stamp issued to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI that was issued on 13 May 1937. The head of the King used on all the stamps of that reign was his design and he also designed the 2s 6d and 5s values for the ‘arms series’ high values. As well he contributed designs for the sets of stamps issued to commemorate the 1948 Summer Olympics and the Festival of Britain.
Dulac was one of the designers of the Wilding series stamps, which were the first definitive stamps of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. He was responsible for the frame around the image of the Queen on the 1s, 1s 3d and 1s 6d values. His image of the Queen was rejected in favor of a photographic portrait by Dorothy Wilding to which he carried out some modifications by hand. He also designed the 1s 3d value stamp of the set issued to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II but he passed just before it was issued.
Dulac designed stamps (Marianne de Londres series) and banknotes for Free France during World War II. In the early 1940s Dulac also prepared a project for a Polish 20-zlotych note for the Bank of Poland (Bank Polski). This banknote (printed in England in 1942 but dated 1939) was ordered by the Polish Government in Exile and was never issued.
Halfway through his final book commission (Milton’s Comus), Dulac passed away of a heart attack on 25 May 1953 in London. He is forever remembered as a prominent illustrator of the 20th century.