Untold lives blog

22 March 2018

The creative genius of Edmund Dulac: Artist, illustrator and stamp designer extraordinaire

Although Edmund Dulac graduated in law from Toulouse University his true passion was art, so he also attended a number of art schools whilst at university. Passionately Anglophile, Dulac studied English and often wore the latest English fashions thereby earning his nickname 'l’Anglais'. He moved to London in 1904, becoming a naturalised British citizen in 1912.

  Photograph of Edmund Dulac 1938Edmund Dulac by Howard Coster, 1938 NPG x11459 © National Portrait Gallery, London   NPG CC By

 Dulac is best remembered as a book illustrator whose works span over 116 published monographs including Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book. 

Urashima Taro from Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book: Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations Urashima Taro from Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book: Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations (Hodder & Stoughton, 1916)

He also produced portraits, caricatures, posters, tapestries, carpets, furniture and theatrical props. Well known within Britain’s artistic and literary circles, Dulac was a close friend of William Butler Yeats, participating in the first performance of his play 'At the Hawk’s Well' in 1916. He also produced much of the play’s scenery, costumes, masks and music. 

Mask for Young Man in “At the Hawk’s Well”Mask for Young Man in “At the Hawk’s Well” from W. B. Yeats, Four Plays for Dancers (Macmillan, 1921)

Less well known outside philatelic and numismatic circles is that Dulac designed stamps, banknotes and proposed coinage. Notable designs for British stamps include the following.

1937 Coronation of king George VI Issue British  1½ penny stamp1937 (13 May) Coronation Issue [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

 

British definitive issue George VI ½ penny stamp1937-1947 Definitive Issue ½d to 7d stamps with Eric Gill [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  British George VI definitive issue 8 penny stamp1937-1947 Definitive Issue 7d to 1s stamps alone [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  British George VI  5 shilling stamp overstamped specimen1939-1948 Issue 1s 6d to 5s stamps [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Olympic Games British 1 shilling stamp 19481948 (29 Jul) Olympic Games Issue, 1s. [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Festival of Britain 2½ penny stamp 19511951 (3 May) Festival of Britain 2½d. [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  1952 Elizabeth II Definitive Issue 1 shilling stamp1952 Elizabeth II Definitive Issue, 1s, 1s 3d and 1s 6d [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

General Charles de Gaulle also approached Dulac to design stamps and banknotes aimed at fostering unity and a common cause for the Free French Colonies against Vichy France and the Axis powers during the Second World War.
 

French Equatorial Africa 1941 Free French Issue 30 cent French Equatorial Africa 1941 Free French Issue 30c [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

  St Pierre & Miquelon 1942 Free French Airmail Issue 5 franc stamp St Pierre & Miquelon 1942 Free French Airmail Issue 5fr stamp [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

  St Pierre & Miquelon Mutual Aid and Red Cross Fund Omnibus Issue 5 franc +20 franc stamp St Pierre & Miquelon Mutual Aid and Red Cross Fund Omnibus Issue 5fr+20f stamp [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

  France 1944 Provisional Government Definitive Issue 5 francFrance 1944 Provisional Government Definitive Issue 5fr. [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: France] Noc

  French West Africa 1945 Definitive Issue 4 franc French West Africa 1945 Definitive Issue 4fr [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

Dulac suffered a heart attack following a strenuous bout of flamenco dancing, sadly dying on 25 May 1953. He left behind well over a thousand works of art and design spanning various mediums, much of it awaiting detailed research.

Richard Scott Morel
Curator, British Library Philatelic Collections

 

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