An eminent artist of the “Golden Age of Illustration” that occurred during the first quarter of the 20th century, Edmund Dulac and his illustrations are considered some of the period’s finest. Often compared to Arthur Rackham, another prominent illustrator of their time, Dulac’s richly detailed and colorful works seem to have more in common with paintings owing to their vibrancy and textured coloration.
Edmund Dulac was born in Toulouse, France in 1882. Although he was a law student at the University of Toulouse, he so enjoyed his art classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts that he dropped his law studies for art winning various art prizes while a student. After a short stint studying art in Paris in 1904, Dulac moved to London. His artistic talent was noted early on and allowed him to obtain work from J.M. Dent to illustrate the collected works of the Bronte Sisters that would include Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This commission—comprised of sixty illustrations—testifies to the artist’s great talent that was apparent even at the age of twenty-two.
Dulac’s presence in London and unique technique corresponded with new developments in the printing industry that allowed for better color reproduction without the use of black lines to provide definition and shape. Although Dulac could work in pen and ink, he preferred painting and this preference would allow Dulac to outshine many illustrators of his day. While Dulac’s paintings were published to illustrate books, the paintings themselves, as with those for The Arabian Nights (1907), were sold at the Leicester Gallery. Publishing books and selling the original paintings was a successful arrangement that Dulac would repeat for many years.
Some of Dulac’s most famously illustrated books include The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (1912), The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales from the Old French (1910), Stories from Hans Christian Andersen (1911), and Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book (1916). As Dulac continued illustrating, the influence of Orientalism became more pronounced in his works. These Orientalist works would infuse Dulac’s palette with brighter coloration. Dulac’s style won high praise for its exquisite use of detail and color as reflected in The Real Princess (1911), for instance.
After WWI, Dulac found work as a set designer and also designed postage stamps, book plates, and theatre graphics. A friend of William Butler Yeats, Dulac had already been naturalized as a British citizen in 1912. Dulac died in 1923 while working on a book commission to illustrate Milton’s Comus. He is remembered as one of the finest illustrators of the 20th century.