Collection of the week: Edmund Dulac
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Collection of the week: Edmund Dulac

When Mary and Hilary Evans began collecting some sixty-odd years ago, among the core pillars of what became Mary Evans Picture Library were gift books from the golden age of illustration, with plates by great illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Charles and William Heath Robinson and of course, Edmund Dulac. In the case of Dulac, those books have remained firmly on the shelves here at the library - until now. With Dulac's work going out of copyright at the end of this year, we have been busy scanning our collection of books and adding his exquisite pictures to our website, many of which we're able to share with you now.

Edmund, or Edmond Dulac (1882-1953) was born in Toulouse, and trained as a lawyer while also taking art classes at the city's École des Beaux-Arts from 1900 to 1903 and later the prestigious Academie Julian in Paris. As an art student he was exposed to and inspired by the work of British illustrators such as Walter Crane, Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris, and as a lifelong Anglophile, he moved to London in 1904 and became naturalised in 1912. An early commission by the publisher J. M. Dent to provide illustrations to a series of novels by the Bronte sisters, quickly established him as a preeminent book illustrator, and he went on to provide pictures for deluxe editions of 'The Arabian Nights', 'The Tempest' and 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' for Hodder & Stoughton, a publisher with whom he worked closely up to the First World War. We have all these books and more, including some of his most popular and well-known images in 'Stories from Hans Andersen' and 'Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales'. But there are some rarities too such as 'Lyrics Pathetic and Humorous from A to Z' published by Frederick Warne, 'My Days with the Fairies' by Mrs Rodolph Stawell, and 'The Dreamer of Dreams' written by royal author, Queen Marie of Romania. All demonstrate Dulac's remarkable precision, expert handling of colour and love of the exotic.

This project has also revealed Dulac's versatility. Many of his pre-war illustrations have a delicate intricacy, while his work during the 1920s and '30s is bolder and more stylised with an art deco flavour, reflecting his love of vibrant Persian miniatures and the simplicity of Japanese prints. Dulac was a talented caricaturist, with many published in magazines of the ILN archive, while the Illustrated London News Christmas Numbers regularly carried colour pictures specially done by him. His career went beyond the confines of book and magazine illustrations too and he became adept at devising schemes for the ballet and theatre and designed coins and bank notes (including the Free French currency commissioned by Charles de Gaulle); the familiar profile of George VI on British coins and stamps is the work of Edmund Dulac.

We have over 350 Dulac images now available to browse on our site, and are continuing to add more so do check back over the next couple of months. In the meantime, we hope you find this selection as breath-taking as we do.

Let us know if you're interested in licensing our Edmund Dulac images or if you have any other questions, research or quote requests. We're here to help. Email us at or call 020 8318 0034.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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