The Best of Edmund Dulac - Myth, Fable and Fairy Tale art from "The Golden Age of Illustration"
Edmund Dulac, his career and works
Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) is one of the great artists associated with the Golden Age of Illustration.
Dulac displayed an artistic interest from an early age, with his favorite medium - watercolors - being established in his teenage years. Typically, Dulac's early illustrations for fairy tales (including those from Scheherazadè, Shakespeare, Andersen and Stawell) do not rely upon an ink line to hold the color as he approached the relatively new color printing medium as a colored ink drawing.
Just prior to Dulac's first commissioned work at the age of 22, the color separation process had been perfected and ink lines bounding the color to hide misregistration were no longer necessary. As Dulac was primarily a painter, he used that new technology's ability to reproduce exact tones to let the color hold shapes and define objects.
In 1913, the mellow, romantic blues that Dulac had tended towards a brighter palette and more oriental style that characterized his interpretation of fairy tales, myths and legend for the remainder of his life.
While we have provided links for various products available through Amazon throughout this Hub, you may also like to consider the wider range available at the Edmund Dulac Collection shown at the 'Spirit of the Ages' Museum.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Stories from the Arabian Nights" (1907)
Dulac's illustrations to Stories from The Arabian Nights (1907) masterfully capture the fantastic elements of the tales through a combination of brilliantly colored characters and soft, impressionistic backgrounds while in other scenes, a brooding and mysterious atmosphere is created through the use of a darker palette. His suite for that commission included 50 color illustrations.
The suite received critical praise upon publication, including the following comment appearing in The New York Times (21 December, 1907)illustrations:
For real charm - a charm quite comparable to Scheherazade's own - this volume depends upon the indescribably quaint and bewitching illustrations provided by Edmund Dulac ... [t]he quality ... is best indicated by saying that the color prints give the impression of mosaics of mother of pearl and rich jewels with the light behind them - a miniature and sublimate stained glass effect, divorced from the ecclesiastic stiffness of real stained glass, and made (in the case of the female figures particularly) infinitely graceful, a fit medium for fairies, houris, genii, goblins, women, and last, but not least, children; admitting, too, of delightfully humorous effect for all the grace and delicacy of it.
The collection of stories illustrated in Stories from The Arabian Nights (1907) include: "The Fisherman and the Genie"; "The Story of the King of the Ebony Isles"; "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"; "The Story of the Magic Horse"; "The Story of the Wicked Half-Brothers"; and "The Story of the Princess of Deryabar".
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Fairies I Have Met" (1907)
The illustrations by Dulac published in Stawell's Fairies I Have Met (1907) are light-hearted and full of whimsy. As such, they suit the tone of Stawell's tales perfectly, which were otherwise written - according to Stawell's published 'Dedication' - so that children would always love fairies and keep them in their hearts.
For that commission, Dulac prepared a suite of 8 color illustrations and a number of monotone images.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Tempest" (1908)
''The Tempest'' - by William Shakespeare - weaves a tale around themes as diverse as betrayal, sorcery and witchcraft, spiritual forces revenge and forgiveness - themes which revolve around the central character, Prospero. Prospero is the sorceror who, prior to being stranded on an island after being betrayed by his brother, had been the rightful Duke of Milan. After twelve years stranded with his daughter, Miranda, a spirit companion, Ariel and a deformed monster, Caliban, Prospero has the opportunity to wreck a passing boat carrying his brother by conjuring a tempest to drive the vessel to annihilation - and thereafter begins Prospero's journey towards reconciliation with his brother and the return to Italy through his magical powers of all those who came hence.
Dulac's sumptuous suite of illustrations - including 40 color images - for The Tempest (1908) are a superb companion to Shakespeare's magical words.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" (1909)
Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám (1909) was based upon a translation of the original composition by the mid-11th Century Iranian astronomer, mathematician and poet - Ghiyathuddin Abulfath Omar bin Ibrahim Al-Khayyami. Fitgerald's Victorian-era adaptation of the original work was based upon his own translation of a Persian manuscript held by the Bodleian Library.
The illustration show above is associated with the 72nd Quatrain:
Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerg'd from, shall so soon expire.
The consistent message of the tale - namely, to live life to the fullest whilst enjoying a drop or more of wine - became the inspiration for many Victorian-era artists, including Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
The illustrations prepared by Dulac - including 20 color images - have been arranged in reference to the Fitzgerald translation of this epic poem (that translation is known to date from 1868).
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Stories from Hans Anderson" (1911)
The First Edition of Stories from Hans Anderson (1911) published by Hodder and Stoughton with illustrations by Dulac included a sumptuous suite of 28 large format color images.
The design shown above is associated with the following passage from :The Little Mermaid":
But the little mermaid had no need to do this, for at the mere sight of the bright liquid which sparkled in her hand like a shining star, they drew back in terror.
Dulac's illustrations for Stories from Hans Anderson (1911) accompanied 7 tales by the Danish author, including: "The Snow Queen"; "The Nightingale"; "The Real Princess"; "The Garden of Paradise"; "The Mermaid"; "The Emperor's New Clothes"; and "The Wind's Tale".
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Bells and Other Poems" (1912)
The deluxe presentation of Dulac's illustrations to "The Bells and Other Poems" (1912) contains many stunning images befitting the unique works of Poe. The images are watercolors, but were treated by Dulac with a variety of methods - including overstreaking with gilt or crayon - to produce the rich haunting effects that are clear throughout.
Those designs received critical praise upon publication, including the following comment in The Outlook (1912):
... for the book, thinking people will say with grace, "Sometimes Dulac's pictures are deep-coloured and intense, sometimes dim and ghost-like. But one and all are sensitized to record impressions of unearthly beauty or horror. Only Poe could have written the poems. Only Dulac could have illustrated them". Not to be overlooked here are the sophisticated ink drawings Dulac made for the headpieces. Although many of the books he illustrated had small ink decorations throughout - he had not worked in this medium so fluently since the days of the doing illustrations for The Pall Mall magazine (1906-08).
Dulac's suite for this publication included 28 color illustrations and 10 monotone designs.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Princess Badoura" (1913)
Princess Badoura (1913) is an illustrated version of Laurence Housman's retelling of a classic tale attributed to Scheherezadè - daughter of the Grand Vizier to Sultan Shahriar (and also wife to the Sultan). Within this tale, Housman transmits the story of Badoura, who rules in her husband's stead while he undertakes a series of adventures. Upon his return, Badoura consents to her Prince taking another wife.
Throughout his suite of illustrations for Princess Badoura (1913), Dulac mixes Oriental and Orientalist influences to create a gorgeous suite of illustrations including 10 color images.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from The Arabian Nights" (1914)
The deluxe presentation of Dulac's illustrations to Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from The Arabian Nights (1914) was published by Hodder & Stoughton (engraved and printed by Henry Stone & Son, Limited [Banbury]). For that First Edition, Dulac's 23 wonderful color illustrations were mounted as tipped-in plates within ornamental black- and gold-stamped borders.
Tales appearing within Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from The Arabian Nights (1914) include: "Sindbad the Sailor"; "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp"; "The Story of the Three Calenders"; and "The Sleeper Awakened".
Stylistically, Dulac approached the illustrations with a mix of themes inspired from the Near and Far East. It makes for a wonderful suite of designs.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Dreamer of Dreams" (1915)
The Dreamer of Dreams (1915) is a wonderful work of fantasy composed by Marie Alexandra Victoria (formerly Princess Marie of Edinburgh), the then-Queen of Roumania.
It tells the tale of wanderings of Eric Gundian - an artist to the Court of the great Northern King, Wanda - after he has been enchanted by a dream. Through the course of his wanderings, Eric finds his enchantress - Stella - only to lose her in the moment of their first passionate embrace. Heartbroken, but still enchanted, Eric returns to the Court of King Wanda to finalize his masterpiece with his own final breath. Miracles follow and Stella's final resting place becomes venerated as Holy Ground.
Dulac's illustrations for "The Dreamer of Dreams" - including 6 color images - are a superb accompaniment to the spiritual fantasy explored throughout this wonderful story.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Edmund Dulac's Picture Book for the French Red Cross" (1915)
Edmund Dulac's Picture Book for the French Red Cross (1915) was produced as a vehicle for securing funds for the wartime activity of the the Croix Rouge Française, Comité de Londres (The London Committee of The French Red Cross).
The design show above is one of three from Dulac for "Laylá and Majnún: A Persian Love Story" - it is associated with the following passage:
She would sit for hours, with the bird perched on the back of her hand, listening to its soft intonation of that one word 'Majnún'.
The book included 17 tales: "The Story of the Bird Feng: A Fairy Tale from China"; "Young Rouselle: A French Song of the Olden Time"; "Laylá and Majnún: A Persian Love Story"; "The Nightingale: After a Fairy Tale by Hans Andersen"; "Three Kings of Orient: A Carol"; "Sindbad the Sailor: A Tale from the Thousand and One Nights"; "The Little Seamstress: A French Song of the Olden Time"; "The Real Princess: After a Fairy Tale by Hans Andersen"; "My Lisette: An Old French Song"; "Cinderella: A Fairy Tale from the French"; "The Chilly Lover: A Song from the French"; "The Story of Aucassin and Nicolette: An Old World Idyll"; "Blue Beard: An Old Tale from the French"; "Cerberus, the Black Dog of Hades"; "The Lady Badoura: A Tale from the Thousand and One Nights"; "The Sleeper Awakened: A Tale from the Thousand and One Nights"; and "Jusef and Asenath: A Love Story of Egypt". In addition, the book contained 19 color illustrations contributed by Edmund Dulac.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Edmund Dulac's Fairy-Book" (1916)
Edmund Dulac's Fairy-Book (1916) is another of Dulac's wonderful war-time productions. In this case, Dulac personally selected the tales and prepared the text in addition to his wonderful illustrations. For the French Edition later published by Piazza, he also prepared the French translation.
Tales included in Edmund Dulac's Fairy-Book (1916) are: "Snegorotchka: A Russian Fairy Tale"; "The Buried Moon: An English Fairy Tale"; "White Caroline and Black Caroline: A Flemish Fairy Tale"; "The Seven Conquerors of the Queen of the Mississippi: A Belgian Fairy Tale"; "The Serpent Prince: An Italian Fairy Tale"; "The Hind of the Wood: A French Fairy Tale"; "Ivan and the Chestnut Horse: A Russian Fairy Tale"; "The Queen of the Many-Colored Bedchamber: An Irish Fairy Tale"; "The Blue Bird: A French Fairy Tale"; "Bashtchelik; or, Real Steel: A Serbian Fairy Tale"; "The Friar and the Boy: An English Fairy Tale"; "The Green Serpent: A French Fairy Tale"; "Urashima Taro: A Japanese Fairy Tale"; and "The Fire Bird: A Russian Fairy Tale".
Dulac's text and 15 color illustrations appearing in the First Edition are wonderful.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Stealers of the Light" (1916)
The Stealers of Light (1916) was a further tale from Marie, Queen of Roumania. As noted previously, Dulac had contributed illustrations to another of her books - The Dreamer of Dreams (1915).
On this occasion, two illustrations from Dulac were published in the First Edition.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Tanglewood Tales" (1918)
Tanglewood Tales (1918) presents a selection of ancient Greek myths as retold for children by the 19th Century American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) accompanied by a suite of design by Edmund Dulac. As arranged in the version illustrated by Dulac, Hawthorne's tales are entitled: "The Minotaur"; "The Pygmies"; "The Dragon's Teeth"; "Circe's Palace"; "The Pomegranate Seeds"; and "The Golden Fleece".
The treatment provided to Hawthorne's tales by Dulac is superb. Quite unlike other of his contemporaries who contributed illustrations to versions of "Tanglewood Tales" - such as Arthur Rackham and Maxfield Parrish - Dulac has blended the aesthete of the high Art Nouveau with influences directly from ancient Greek art to produce a set of stunning images that includes 14 color illustrations.
The color illustrations from Edmund Dulac appearing in Tanglewood Tales (1918) include:
- "She shook her hands over the multitude below, as if she were scattering a million of curses among them";
- "Just as Prince Theseus was going on board, his father bethought himself of one last word to say";
- "'Then follow me,' said Ariadne";
- "So now the battle was ended ... and all the wickedness and the ugliness that infest life, were past and gone forever";
- "The were constantly at war with the cranes and they had always been so, ever since the long-lived Giant could remember";
- "He scampered across the sand, and plunged right in among the foaming billows";
- "Drawing his sword, he rushed at the monster and flung himself right into his cavernous mouth";
- "Yet it was not so sweet as the song of the Sirens";
- "They made haste to wallow down upon all fours";
- "On went the chariot, and King Pluto seemed greatly pleased to find himself once more in his own kingdom";
- "But neither could Pan tell her what had become of Proserpina any better than the rest of these wild people";
- "The good Chiron taught his pupils how to play upon the harp";
- "Jason appointed Tiphys to be helmsman, because he was a star-gazer"; and
- "He caught one of them by the horn and the other by his screwed-up tail".
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Kingdom of the Pearl" (1920)
The literary work of Parisian jeweler, Léonard Rosenthal, The Kingdom of the Pearl - in its illustrated form - first appeared in 1920 after the author commissioned Edmund Dulac to undertake illustration and design work for the book.
A total of 1,550 copies of the illustrated variant of The Kingdom of the Pearl (1920) were produced for the English-speaking world - 775 each for the British market (by Nisbet and Co.) and the later edition for the United States of America (Brentano's).
The designs for The Kingdom of the Pearl (1920) are considered Dulac's illustrated book masterpieces and includes 10 color illustrations. His suite of images displays a style matured fully following development through previous titles including Tanglewood Tales (1918). It is a style that draws on influences including those of Persian miniatures, but one that Dulac made his own entirely.
Those illustrations by Edmund Dulac include:
- "The Birth of the Pearl";
- "The Pearl of the Elephant";
- "The Pearl of the Fish";
- The Pearl of the Boar";
- "The Pearl of the Bamboo";
- "The Pearl of the Serpent";
- "The Pearl of the Cloud";
- "The Pearl of Love";
- The Talisman Pearl"; and
- "The Pearl of the Warrior".
Edmund Dualc's illustrations for "Treasure Island" (1927)
Treasure Island (1927) - with illustrations by Edmund Dulac - includes the classic pirate tale by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The suite of designs for Treasure Island (1927) prepared by Edmund Dulac included 12 color illustrations, in addition to further 21 monotone sketches (the sketches reproduced as marginalia throughout the publication).
As noted by White in his biography of the artist, Edmund Dulac (1975), this suite was the artist's personal favorite and further:
"... [Dulac] remarked that of all the work he had ever done, the pictures for Treasure Island were the only ones he would not have altered in any way".
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "A Fairy Garland" (1928)
A Fairy Garland (1928) - with illustrations by Edmund Dulac - includes tales by Charles Perrault, Mme d'Aulnot and Count Anthony Hamilton, namely: "The Fairy Song"; "Riquet with the Tuft"; "Puss in Boots"; "Bablet"; "Green Dragon"; "Fortunata"; "The Blue Bird"; "Princess Rosetta"; and "Mayblossom".
The suite of designs for A Fairy Garland (1928) prepared by Edmund Dulac included 12 color illustrations.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "Gods and Mortals in Love" (1935)
The illustrations 1935 Edition of Williamson's Gods and Mortals in Love included 11 tales from Greek myths: "Aphrodite and Adonis"; "Selene and Endymion"; "Pluto and Persephone"; "Psyche and Cerberus"; "Pan and Syrinx"; "Zeus and Europa"; "Orpheus and Eurydice"; "Circe and Odysseus"; "Jason and Medea"; "Herakles and Deianeira"; and "Perseus and Andromeda".
Dulac's 9 color illustrations published in Gods and Mortals in Love (1935) are wonderful examples of his later high Art Nouveau style. The composition of the images is striking and the illustrations have been crafted exquisitely.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Daughters of the Stars" (1939)
The Daughters of the Stars (1939) was a tale written by Mary Crary to inspire girls - and mothers - through narrative describing the fantastic journey of Perdita and Astrella that was similar to traditionally styled fairytales. In this tale, however, Perdita (Astrellas's) mother was not dispatched within the first lines, but accompanied her daughter throughout the magnificent tale.
Dulac contributions to illustrating Crary's tale were restricted to just two color illustrations and marginal monotone designs (including the Title Page).
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche" (1951)
The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche (1951) was published in America only and was bought to print through a contractual arrangement between George Macy's 'The Limited Editions Club' and Dulac that was also responsible for The Masque of Comus (1954). Dulac is credited with the inspiration for the concept, with his suggestion for the project following his own rejection of two previous proposals generated by Macy.
There is little doubt that Dulac drew on his previous work in illustrating Greek tales as the basis of the artwork for The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche (1951), but the colors and other rendering is unique among his portfolio of work and is closely reminiscent of images produced with a pastel technique, rather than watercolor.
Edmund Dulac's illustrations for "The Masque of Comus" (1954)
"The Masque of Comus" was a 17th Century moral tale borne from a collaboration between John Milton and Henry Lawes. It tells a story about virtue and grace, two matter upon which Milton had meditated profoundly. The tale is of a lady, lost from her brothers in a wood, who is threatened by the son of Bacchus and Circe. The loss of her virginity follows but through supernatural means, she is saved.
The original performance of "The Masque of Comus" was before the Earl of Bridgewater on the occasion of his becoming Lord President of Wales. Performed at Ludlow Castle, the parts of the Lady and her two brothers were played by three children of the Earl, and the part of 'Thyrsis the Attendant Spirit' by Lawes himself.
Dulac's contribution to The Masque of Comus (1954) was published posthumously - he had died a year earlier. The illustrations he prepared for the tale capture the naivety inherent in elements of the story, in addition to other central themes such as Hope, Faith and Chastity.