Friday, November 27, 2009

Edmund Dulac, Man of Letters

Surprisingly enough, I've managed to elude Edmund Dulac as a topic here on VIEW, up to this point. Let it be addressed, here and now.

Let me say a bit about the idea of the gift-book. Primarily in Britain, but also to some extant in the US, there was a kind of publishing boom that went on from 1905 to the middle of WWI. Full color printing was just coming into being, but it was still a rare treat to obtain these miniature prints...and reading as a form of entertainment was at a peak it will never enjoy again, unless all the power goes out. There was no better gift during the holidays, than to receive a book of the best stories, with color illustrations by the best artists. For that decade and a bit more, publishers were like today's movie studios, looking to contract the big names to work exclusively for them. While Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) was the number one draw in producing this kind of book, there is little argument that Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) was his closest competitor.

Dulac was French born, and settled in London in late 1904 in the hopes of finding work in publishing. This was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Dulac worked on some fantastic titles over his career; The Arabian Nights, The Works of Poe, Grimm, Andersen, and Treasure Island. His work can be moody, sensitive, his draftsmanship is top notch. His color palette is still revered today.

In discussions elsewhere, I mentioned that Dover had recently released a reprint of one of Dulac's earlier books, that he also wrote. This isn't a book that normally enters a list of his top 10 books, but it has some great little gems of characters, and the color is beautiful. I wanted to give those interested a peek at these specifically, and in a few days I'll follow up with some of my favorite Dulac works.

Here's a few spots to get a deep look at a wide range of his work.

Jim Vadeboncouer's Dulac Bio
Surlalune's Dulac Collection
Artpassion's Dulac Collection

So here, from
Lyrics Pathetic and Humorous, Frederick Warne & Co., 1906—

Dover's reprint

News from the Fall 2010 Dover list. Announced on Amazon this week, so I can state it here as well—Currently slated for late Sept. `10 release is
The Art & Illustration of Walter Crane. Look mid- December for a peek at this project!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Laurence Housman, the illustrator

Among many of those whose illustrations grace these "pages", a good number of them at one point or another have taken up the the pen for words, as well as picture. Howard Pyle practiced both with great expertise. On the other side of the pond, one inker who has caught my attention more than once is Lawrence Housman. (1865-1959)

Housman is better remembered today for his writing, it occupied the latter two thirds of his working life. He began writing with poetry in the 1890s, and then literary tales, and plays. As for his art, his inking style was incredibly intricate, and by the time he was in his mid-thirties, his eyesight had begun to fail, and with that he turned more to writing.

For about a decade, 1890-1900, he did some very beautiful line work. His style had an organic kind of flow- it reminds me of the kinds of pattern and warp you might find in wood grain, or the foam on the water. It is this natural kind of texturing that really make his work distinct. The pieces and the tales he worked with were often fantastic, with a bit of the supernatural. In the latter half of that decade, Housman did some books that, like Pyle, he wrote and illustrated. I am not aware of any illustration work that Housman did in color, but if you know of some, please let us know.

If there is work of Housman's that you are familiar with, it is likely the work from Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market. Originally published in 1893, it has been reprinted frequently and has been in print until just recently. Housman's edition is full of illustrations and decorations, and has become the definitive illustrated version of the poem. The first two images are from his Goblin Market. If there is a piece of writing of Housman's out there that you are familiar with, it may very well be his version of the Arabian Nights, a version which is frequently used for any modern reprint. Originally, it was the edition that introduced us to the Arabian Nights illustrations of Edmund Dulac.

Other images here are from Jonas Lie's Weird Tales of Northern Seas- 1892, Scandinavian folk tales

Jane Barlow's The End of Elfintown, 1894

The Field of Clover, 1898, one of the four collections of literary fairy tales that he wrote.