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Edmund Dulac is remembered most for the body of work he produced during a single decade of his life at the start of his artistic career. Born in Toulouse, France, in 1882, Dulac displayed an interest in art at an early age. He had a passion for the exotic, notably the artistic styles and stories of distant lands. This appetite was nurtured by the artwork and prints that his father brought home from his travels for young Edmund to study. He also loved the works of English artist-illustrators, such as Walter Crane, William Morris, and Aubrey Beardsley. To see the dazzlingly detailed characters and settings in the visionary art of Edmund Dulac, it is hard to fathom that he had finished his second year of law school before committing himself to becoming an illustrator.
At the start of the twentieth century, new developments in printing technology made color reproductions available at a reasonable cost for the first time. Thus was born a demand for color illustrators, and the new industry flourished. In the autumn of 1904, newly settled into London from France, the 22-year-old French illustrator launched his search for magazine work. After only a few weeks in London, displaying an incredible eagerness and an armful of drawings, Dulac was hired by publisher J. M. Dent to provide sixty color pieces to illustrate the complete works of the Brontë sisters. Jane Eyre was his first volume, and the twelve pieces in this group were well received, sending Dulac on his way to becoming one of the premier artists of the Golden Age of book illustration.
During the Christmas season of 1905, William Heinemann, a prominent London publishing house, signed Arthur Rackham to illustrate a gift-book edition of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle. The book had fifty-five color plates, and was a tremendous success for both artist and publisher. Hodder and Stoughton, Heinemann's biggest competitor, decided to compete on this new level, and Dulac was the right person for the job. In an unusual arrangement with Liecester Galleries, Hodder and Stoughton signed Dulac, who went on to produce gift books for them annually for the next ten years. It is this body of work that the present volume examines—specifically, the variety of fairy tale illustrations done by Dulac during the Hodder and Stoughton years. Edmund Dulac was the perfect artist to explore the mysterious, romantic tales of the Arabian Nights andSindbad, his delicate line work and jewel-toned palette bring to life Hans Christian Andersen's tales.
As a result of the publication of these books, Dulac's artistic growth and reputation both flourished. It seemed as if his future was set, but World War I put an end to this annual routine. Paper had become a premium during the war, and publishing outside of the war effort was significantly curtailed. In the years during the war, Dulac's work appeared in a number of books sponsored to raise money for the war effort. These years were a great strain on both Dulac and his wife, both mentally and financially.
Toward the war's end, as well as afterward, Dulac became involved with a number of theatrical productions, doing scenery and costume designs. In 1918 he produced what would be his last book for Hodder and Stoughton, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales. Book illustration in the style for which Dulac was known was much less in demand, forcing him to find work in other areas of the graphic arts. His later endeavors included caricature, portraiture, package design, and a good deal of work in stamp and bank note design. From 1924 until 1949, he had an association with Hearst Newspapers' The American Weekly, from which he earned the majority of his income at that time. Dulac was actively working up until his death in 1953.
Jeff A. Menges May 2004
Excerpted from Dulac's Fairy Tale Illustrations by Jeff A. Menges. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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