Edmund Dulac
(French, 1882-1953)

Born in Toulouse, France, on 22 October 1882, Edmond Dulac was an only child from a comfortable bourgeois home. Educated at the Lycée de Toulouse, Dulac showed an early introversion and talent for drawing. By age sixteen he was able to render professional art nouveau work. After studying law at the University of Toulouse for two years, Dulac enrolled full time at the École des Beaux Arts in 1900. In 1903 Dulac won a scholarship to the Académie Julien in Paris. His December 1903 he left for England to start his artistic career. Enamored of British culture, he changed the spelling of his first name to "Edmund."'

 

Dulac enjoyed immediate success in England. He joined the London Sketch Club soon after his arrival and later St. John's Art Club. His first commission was the illustration of Jane Eyre, a quintessentially British project with which he was entrusted at the age of twenty-two.

 

Dulac is best known as an illustrator of gift books and children's books. His favorite medium was watercolor. From 1890 to 1920, British book illustration was preeminent and Dulac's career flourished. He also collaborated with his friends W. B. Yeats and Sir Thomas Beecham on various theater projects. In 1920 he composed music for a production of Yeats's At the Hawk's Well. Yeats, Dulac, and Ezra Pound staged Japanese Nō plays, with Dulac designing costumes, sets, and makeup and composing music.

 

The hardships of World War I were still keenly felt by 1920, a year which signaled the death of the gift book and the start of Dulac's financial insecurity. In the same year The Outlook stopped running Dulac's cartoon drawings, which had been his only steady source of income. Though he managed on income from portraits and frequent commissions for American Weekly covers and postage stamps, money was always to be a concern.

 

By World War II, Dulac had become the leading authority on postage stamp design. When occupied France wanted to unify its colonies against Germany by issuing stamps with the Cross of Lorraine, this project naturally fell to an enthusiastic Dulac. Dulac's wartime work culiminated in the Victory stamp for France, using Léa Rixens, Émile Rixens's widow, as the model for Marianne de Londres.

 

At the close of his career, Dulac returned to illustrating children's books with the same perfectionism that had characterized the rest of his work.

 

(Edmund Dulac, Harry Ransom Center, Oct. 2014.)