Untold lives blog

45 posts categorized "Visual arts"

25 April 2019

Crusoe embossed

Robinson Crusoe was published 300 years ago on 25 April 1719.  Daniel Defoe’s account of a shipwrecked English sailor cast away on an uninhabited tropical island for 28 years has universal appeal because it is so believable.  Defoe effectively put into print the archetypal shipwreck yarn spun by many an old mariner.  It capitalised on the popularity of travel books and many readers did not realise it was fiction. 

Part of the enduring success of Robinson Crusoe is the impact it makes on a reader’s imagination - the mind is stirred by adventure in exotic far-off places.  Illustrations have played an important role in the presentation and reception of Crusoe, whether cheap quickly executed woodcuts in chapbooks and penny novels, or coloured plates in fine bindings.  The primary topic has been the portraiture of Crusoe – John Pine’s frontispiece for the first edition sets a consistent tone.  Crusoe, the resourceful, stands with his guns looking determinedly at the prospect of surviving alone on the island, the lost ship in the background.  Supporting illustrations frequently emphasise pivotal points in the story such as the shipwreck, the discovery of the footprint and Friday’s rescue.

Portraits of Robinson CrusoePortraits of Robinson Crusoe. John Pine’s first edition frontispiece (C.30.f.6) is top left.  Later woodcuts from a variety of chapbooks can be seen to retain the composition. Noc

Portrait of Robinson Crusoe by Jules Fesquet and LegeniselThere have also been some quite ‘unique’ portraits like this fantastic effort by Jules Fesquet and Legenisel from 1877. Noc

The proliferation of editions in the 19th century saw illustrations dominated by traditional images that are typical of colonialist assumptions and the flawed belief in white Europeans’ superiority over people and places of the wider world.  Traditional style editions routinely show Friday prostrate before his saviour, Crusoe.  In a show of submission and gratitude, Defoe tells us that Friday put Crusoe’s foot upon his head.
 

Book binding showing Friday at the feet of  Robinson CrusoeWard & Lock’s publishers’ binding (circa 1879) consciously or unconsciously amplifies the depressing fact that the first word Crusoe taught Friday was, “Master”. Noc

Depiction of Friday’s rescue A perfect exemplar of the colonial-style depiction of Friday’s rescue can be seen in a Maori Language edition from 1852 (freely available via Explore the British Library) – the Preface by the ‘Native Secretary’s Office’ is very revealing. Noc

Artistic capabilities are often stultified by prevalent tastes and looking at the same type of images in edition after edition of Crusoe can be tiring.  Change came with the work of artists like JB Yeats and further possibilities were pursued in the early 20th century with Expressionist art like the work of Walther Klemm.

 J B Yeats’ depiction of Crusoe discovering the footprintJ B Yeats’ depiction of Crusoe discovering the footprint (and looking all Kirk Douglas!) Noc


Lithograph of running figures by Walther KlemmLithograph by Walther Klemm in Das Leben und die ganz ungemeinen Begebenheiten des weltberühmten Engelländers Robinson Crusoe Leipzig, Verleg tbei Friedrich Dehne, 1919. (recent acquisition – awaiting shelfmark). Noc

Of course, it is all too easy for most readers to take for granted the added value and meaning to be gained from illustrations.  J R Biggs, whose wonderful wood-engravings decorate the Penguin Illustrated Classics edition of 1937, remarked that 'books without illustrations make the greatest force in the world: books with illustrations the greatest delight'.

But even though Crusoe is a particularly visual work, how might the visually impaired and blind experience such a novel?  Amongst the 600 or so printed editions of Crusoe held in the British Library, one of the most impressive items is a truly sensual edition: ‘visual’ and striking by both sight and by touch.

In the 1860s, the American Printing House for the Blind produced editions of books printed, or rather, embossed, with raised Roman Type letters.

Embossed edition of Robinson Crusoe

Embossed edition of Robinson CrusoeRobinson Crusoe. Presented to the American Printing House for the Blind (1873) Revolutionary for the blind.  But also aesthetically pleasing for people fortunate to be able to see the embossed type. Noc

The expansion of cheap print for mass readerships made great use of illustrations and it assisted rising levels of literacy.  The embossed type really adds a further dimension to the visual impression made by ‘printed’ words.  The invention of printing for the blind marked a new era in the history of literature.  It made the novel personally discoverable to readers unable to see traditional ink printed texts.  It is testament to the success and universal appeal of Crusoe that it was one of the very first texts selected to be printed by the APHB enabling the shipwrecked sailor’s adventure to become embossed on even more readers’ minds.

Christian Algar
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
David Blewett, The illustration of Robinson Crusoe, 1719-1920 (1995)
Lists of books published by the American Printing House for the Blind and by other American firms [1896]
Edmund C, Johnson, Tangible Typography, or how the Blind read (1853)

Visit our free display about Robinson Crusoe in the British Library Treasures Gallery - available until June 2019.

 

15 February 2019

JMW Turner’s First and Last Loves (Part 2)

Our last post told the story of Elizabeth White, the first love of artist JMW Turner. Today we turn to his last love - Sophia Booth.

Sophia Caroline Nollte was born in Dover, in 1798, to German immigrant parents.  She moved to Margate when she married a local fisherman, John Henry Pound, in 1818.  Sadly, he drowned in 1821, leaving her with two sons, Joseph, who died before he was six, and Daniel.

In 1825 she married John Booth, who described himself as 'a gentleman of Margate'.  He was 37 years older than her.  They established a guest house on the seafront in Margate, near the harbour.  In 1826 Sophia gave birth to a son, John Pound Booth, who died of cholera in 1832.  John Booth also succumbed to cholera in 1833 and so, once again, Sophia was left a widow, with one surviving child, Daniel Pound.

Turner stayed in the Booth guest-house from about 1829, favouring the location because of the quality of the light.  After John Booth’s death he began a relationship with Sophia.  Turner’s friend, Charles Turner (no relation) described Sophia as being like a fat cook with no discernible education.  But Turner’s love for Sophia was romantic; he wrote her poems and gave her drawings.

Turner's A Sleeping Woman, perhaps Mrs Booth

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Sleeping Woman, Perhaps Mrs Booth c.1830–40 Photo © Tate CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

In 1846 they moved to Davis Place, Cremorne Road, Chelsea, which is now part of Cheyne Walk.  The house was rented in Sophia’s name and the neighbours assumed that Turner was Mr Booth.  He habitually wore a naval greatcoat and was known as 'Puggy Booth' or 'The Admiral' in the area.  Turner died in the house in 1851.

After Turner’s death, Sophia told his friend, David Roberts, that Turner never made any financial contribution to their life together but that he had composed verses in honour of 'herself and her personal charms' and had been jealous.  She claimed that he had told her that she was 'the handmaid of art'.

In December 1852, Sophia’s son, Daniel Pound, who had become an engraver, applied for a passport.  His travelling companions were named as his mother and Gustave Philip de Garlieb, a Danish-born engraver who worked at the Ordnance Survey. His address was the same street as Sophia, so he was either a neighbour or, possibly, a lodger.  Where did they go and what was the reason for their trip?  I am still looking for clues.

Sophia became friendly with John Ruskin, Turner’s artistic executor, and sold him some of Turner’s notebooks.  Ruskin gave her gifts, including the oval self-portrait miniature of Turner as a boy.  Turner’s first biographer, Walter Thornbury, portrayed Sophia as acting in a mercenary way after his death but Ruskin and other friends thought that this was unfair.  She had, after all, burned Turner’s letters to her rather than sell them and she gave away many of his other possessions.

In 1865, her son, Daniel Pound, sold some of the Turner paintings she owned for £4,000 and bought Haddenham Hall, in Buckinghamshire, for £1,000, where she lived until her death in 1878, aged 80.  She asked to be buried at St John’s Church, Margate, so Turner’s first and last loves lie in the same churchyard.

Grave of Sophia Booth at St John's Church Margate

Grave of Sophia Booth at St John's Church Margate Grave of Sophia Booth at St John's Church Margate - photographs by author

David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016)
Felicity Myrone , J. M. W. Turner and his World: John Platt (1842-1902), a Late Victorian Extra-illustrator, and his Collection Electronic British Library Journal

 

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is currently open Wednesday-Sunday: 12 –1pm: Self-guided visits, and 1-4pm: Guided Tours (Last entry: 3:30pm)

 

14 February 2019

JMW Turner’s First and Last Loves (Part 1)

Valentine’s Day would seem to be an appropriate time to look at the romantic life of the great painter, JMW Turner.  There were many women in Turner’s life, at least one of whom bore him children, but he never married.  The disparaging comments he made about matrimony were probably formed by his observation of his parents’ troubled marriage and perhaps as the result of an early experience.

Today we look at Turner’s first love - Elizabeth White.

When things were difficult at home, and for the benefit of his health, the young Turner would often stay for long periods with relations, notably his maternal uncle, Joseph Marshall, who was a butcher in Brentford.  In 1787, the twelve-year-old Turner moved from Brentford to stay with friends in Margate, where he attended Thomas Coleman’s school in Love Lane.  One of his school friends was Edward White, whose sister, Elizabeth, was the same age as Turner.  Young William was strongly attracted to Elizabeth and, after he returned to London, he visited Margate frequently throughout the early 1790s and the relationship blossomed.  Turner’s problem was that he did not feel that the state of his finances made it possible for him to propose marriage.

Turner's Margate harbour from the sea 1786-87Joseph Mallord William Turner, Margate Harbour from the Sea 1796–7 Photo © Tate CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

After his success at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1796, Turner felt himself sufficiently established to propose to Elizabeth and set off down to Margate, only to find that she had become engaged to a local man, Richard Wiles.  Some of Turner’s biographers describe Wiles as a builder – he wasn’t, he was a publican.  The marriage licence describes him as Richard Wiles of St John, Thanet, innkeeper, bachelor, and the newspaper report of the wedding, in 1798, describes him as of The Bull’s Head Inn.  The confusion is probably because his parents were also Richard and Elizabeth. There is still a Bull’s Head on the site, where, in 1952, Eric Morecambe (Bartholomew) had his wedding reception when he married the landlord’s daughter, Joan Bartlett.

Turner was devastated and his friends’ accounts suggest that he suffered some form of breakdown. Sadly, Elizabeth did not enjoy a long or happy life. Her son, another Richard, was born in October 1799 but died in February 1800.  Elizabeth herself died the following year, aged 26, but I have not been able to discover the cause of her death.

Elizabeth is buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist Church, Margate. 

St John's Church MargateSt John's Church Margate from New Ramsgate, Margate, and Broadstairs Guide (Ramsgate, 1855?)

Wiles family grave at St John's Church MargateWiles family grave at St John's Church Margate - photograph by author

I assume that Turner knew of Elizabeth’s death from her brother or one of his other contacts in Margate but I can find no record of this.  It is, however, a reasonable assumption that this early experience contributed to Turner’s jaundiced view of relationships and marriage in particular.

David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016)
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal 27 November 1798 British Newspaper Archive
Felicity Myrone, 'J. M. W. Turner and his World: John Platt (1842-1902), a Late Victorian Extra-illustrator, and his Collection' Electronic British Library Journal

JMW Turner’s First and Last Loves (Part 2)

Turner's House logo
Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is currently open Wednesday-Sunday: 12 –1pm: Self-guided visits, and 1-4pm: Guided Tours (Last entry: 3:30pm)

 

17 January 2019

Isaac Robert Cruikshank – a life retold?

On display in the exhibition Cats on the Page at the British Library is the pamphlet The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat published in 1817.  The illustrator is probably the caricaturist and portrait painter Isaac Robert Cruikshank, often known professionally as just Robert Cruikshank.

Portrait of Isaac Robert Cruikshank by Frederick William PailthorpeIsaac Robert Cruikshank by Frederick William Pailthorpe (1828) NPG D9318 © National Portrait Gallery, London    NPG CC

Isaac Robert Cruikshank was born in London in 1789.  He and his more famous younger brother George followed in the footsteps of their artist father Isaac.  Biographies of the two brothers tell of Isaac Robert venturing to sea as a teenager during the French Wars.  His parents are said to have secured their son a position as midshipman in the East India Company ship Perseverance.  The story goes that Isaac Robert was left behind at St Helena on the return voyage.  He had gone on shore in command of a boat’s crew, a storm arose, and he was stranded and reported to be lost.  After hiding from press gangs and suffering privations, he was befriended by the governor of the island and went home to England in a whaler.  On the way back, they met with a vessel which gave them news of the battle of Trafalgar.  His appearance on the family doorstep in London was greeted with astonishment as they were in mourning for his death.

I decided to dig into the East India Company archives to see if I could discover more about this interesting tale.  What I found was rather different!  Isaac Cruikshank appears in the crew list for the Perseverance as the purser’s servant, with the rank of seaman rather than junior officer.  The wage and receipt books show that he joined the ship in the Downs on 31 March 1804 for the voyage to China and was discharged on 17 September 1805 when the Perseverance reached England.  His wages were 45 shillings per month; after deductions he was paid £39 10s 6d for service of 17 months and 17 days.  Cruikshank collected and signed for his wages in person at East India House in the City of London on 15 January 1806, four months after arriving back in England.  Where had he been in the interim?  Was the St Helena story concocted to cover the young man’s absence immediately after the ship docked?

I did check the St Helena records to see if there were any clues there.  The Perseverance anchored there on 30 June 1805, and a muster of the crew was taken on 11 July 1805 just before the ship departed.  Cruikshank is in that muster list of crew members and I could find nothing to suggest that anything unusual happened to him.

So a cracking good yarn, but seemingly untrue.  Being told about Trafalgar by a passing ship is a nice touch.  The battle took place on 21 October 1805 but, according to the records of the Perseverance, Cruikshank had been discharged in England a month earlier. 

After Cruikshank’s death in 1856, George Daniel wrote a tribute which mentioned the time his friend had spent at sea. Daniel said that Cruikshank ‘was wont to recall those happy days, when he proudly walked the quarter-deck in the uniform of his sovereign; eager, in his exuberant pugnacity, to fight the battles of his country.  But he was born to be an artist’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/255D Journal of the Perseverance 1804-1805, with a crew list
IOR/L/MAR/B/255K Wage book for the Perseverance 1806-1806
IOR/L/MAR/B/255K2 Receipt book for the Perseverance 1806-1806
IOR/G/32/70 St Helena Consultations 1805
George Daniel, Love’s last labour not lost (London, 1863)
William Bates, George Cruikshank: the artist, the humourist, and the man, with some account of his brother Robert (London, 1878)
William Blanchard Jerrold, The life of George Cruikshank (London, 1882)


Cats on the Page exhibition supported by
 

Logo of Animal Friends, exhibition sponsor

 

25 September 2018

William Blake’s Grave

The Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds are the final resting place for around 120,000 people including Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan, Susanna Wesley, and William Blake. Previously, Blake’s precise location in the cemetery was unknown but thanks to Carol and Luis Garrido’s investigation, the exact location has been determined. In celebration of the discovery, the Blake Society commissioned a new gravestone, and arranged for an unveiling ceremony 191 years after Blake’s death, on August 12, 2018. Philip Pullman, novelist of His Dark Materials trilogy, and heavy metal frontman of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, came together, alongside other Blake devotees to celebrate the occasion.
 

Blake's grave at Bunhill FieldsWilliam Blake’s grave. Taken by Elizabeth Potter. September 2018. Noc

Another grave to visit for all things Blake, is Robert Blair’s The Grave, a Poem (1808). Blair belonged to what is often called the Graveyard School, a pre-Romantic group of poets in the eighteenth century that wrote about mortality, loss, and the afterworld.  Blake was commissioned to create designs to illustrate Blair’s popular poem for a new edition. Eventually, Blake was ousted from the position as engraver to be replaced by Louis Schivaonetti but twelve of his designs would populate the pages, and later would be Blake’s claim-to-fame in the nineteenth century.

An interesting plate by Blake is The Soul exploring the recesses of the Grave. The design is described in the book as: “The Soul, prior to the dissolution of the Body, exploring through and beyond the tomb, and there discovering the emblems of mortality and of immortality”.  The Soul, embodied as a curious woman holding a candle, ventures into the rocky, cavernous tomb that houses a corpse surrounded by flames. Atop the cave is a young man, with a crescent moon appearing behind and between his legs, bending towards the tomb with a confused, saddened expression.

  Image of The Soul exploring the recesses of the grave The Grave, A Poem by Robert Blair. C.39.k.11. Noc

Scholars Robert N. Essick and Morton D. Paley suggest comparing this design to another contained in The Grave, called Death’s Door. These two images function as opposites – The Soul Exploring conveys restriction and obfuscation, and the Death’s Door revealing the possibilities of regeneration after death. Blake’s departure from gloom and towards the opportunity of immortality and spiritual regeneration is epitomized in the pairing of engravings. As the description of the imagery asserts in The Grave (1808), “these designs, detached from the work they embellish, form of themselves a most interesting poem.”
 

Image of Death’s Door The Grave, A Poem by Robert Blair. C.39.k.11. Noc

 

Elizabeth Potter
PhD Research Placement Student from the University of York

Further reading:
Robert Blair's The Grave illustrated by William Blake: a study with facsimile by Robert N. Essick and Morton D. Paley (1982).

The Notebook of William Blake, page 70.

Carol and Luis Garrido’s efforts to find the exact location of Blake.

 

01 May 2018

May Day in the Olden Time

Today we bring you another surprising discovery from the India Office Records.  In a volume of correspondence for the Surveyor’s Department in 1868 is a report on a watercolour painting entitled May Day in the Olden Time by Henry Stacy Marks. 

Panel of a triptych watercolour painting by Henry Stacy Marks entitled May Day in the Olden Time, 1867Panel of a triptych watercolour painting by Henry Stacy Marks entitled May Day in the Olden Time, 1867 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London  FA.677

The appraisal is the subject of a letter written by Matthew Digby Wyatt, India Office Surveyor, to Henry Cole, director of the South Kensington Museum.  Cole had asked Wyatt to visit the Dudley Gallery to inspect Marks’ painting because the Department of Science and Art was interested in reproducing it as a mural decoration for the Museum.  The procession of 16th-century figures in May Day in the Olden Time was described by one contemporary critic as ‘a favourable example of Mr Marks’s transition manner –a  manner which lies halfway between an easel-picture and a wall-picture, which reconciles a figure composition to the conditions of architectural construction and the requirements of mural decoration’.

Not everyone who viewed the painting at the Dudley Gallery was appreciative.  The London Daily News wrote of ‘general quaintness and affected imbecility’.  Wyatt reported to Cole : ‘In my opinion its artistic merit is considerable as it is well composed and with the exception of a few faults in proportion of parts of some of the figures, carefully drawn in a somewhat conventional manner, while the subject is cheerful, suitable as a picture for a private room of moderate dimensions, and treated with less caricature than this Artist is generally in the habit of introducing into his work’. 

Wyatt did not think the asking price of £168 was excessive and went on to consider two aspects of the painting’s suitability: the subject matter and the technical fitness for reproduction.  Wyatt was struck by ‘the want of harmony between the subject and the scope of such an institution’ as the Museum.  He thought a ‘graver aim’ would be more desirable.  However he believed that the painting was technically ideal for copying onto earthenware slabs or plaques, indeed it ‘seemed expressly intended for some such object’.  In conclusion, Wyatt suggested that Marks should be commissioned to design a composition in the same style but limited to a much smaller number of figures.

Triptych watercolour painting by Henry Stacy Marks entitled May Day in the Olden Time, 1867 Triptych watercolour painting by Henry Stacy Marks entitled May Day in the Olden Time, 1867 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London  FA.677 

The Department of Science and Art did purchase May Day in the Olden Time and it is now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The painting was copied onto three porcelain panels by a student from the South Kensington Art School.  The panels were then incorporated into a decorative buffet placed in the Green Dining Room of the Museum.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Surveyor’s Department correspondence IOR/L/SUR/2/7 ff.28-31, letter from Matthew Digby Wyatt to Henry Cole 6 February 1868.
English painters of the present day – Essay on H S Marks by  by J Beavington  Atkinson (London, 1871)
British Newspaper Archive e.g.  London Daily News 8 February 1868

 

19 April 2018

The Plans, Maps and Views of Lieutenant-General William Skinner, Chief Engineer of Great Britain

Born to a merchant in St Kitts in the Caribbean, William Skinner (1700-1780) lost his parents at a young age and was adopted by his Aunt and her new husband Captain Talbot Edwards, Chief Engineer in Barbados and the Leeward Islands.

Skinner was educated at military colleges in Paris and Vienna and received his warrant as practitioner engineer in 1719. By 1757 he had risen through the ranks to become Colonel William Skinner, Chief Engineer of Great Britain, and in 1770 he was made Lieutenant-General.

Watercolour view of Newfoundland from the seaA View in Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 26)

At the British Library we hold Skinner’s personal collection of maps, plans, surveys and views (Add MS 33231-33233) which show the variety of places where he worked throughout his career, as well as giving an insight into the working process of a military engineer in the 18th century. 

From the start of his career Skinner was sent all over the world.  He became known as an authority on fortifications, and worked on important projects including the building of fortifications on Menorca and surveying Gibraltar, where he later served as Director of Engineering.

A View of the South Front of the Mountain of GibraltarA View of the South Front of the Mountain of Gibraltar (Maps K.Top.72.48.d.)

After the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Skinner was asked to lead a major project to build fortifications in the Highlands. Fort George, built on the sea front north-east of Inverness, was finally completed in 1769 and is still in use today.

Colour plan of Fort St GeorgeA Plan of Fort George (Maps K.Top.50.33.)

Skinner became Chief Engineer in 1757, just after the Seven Years War (1756-1763) had begun, and many projects that he worked on at this time were as a result of this conflict. In 1761 Skinner was sent to Belle Île in France, which had been captured by the British in order to have a base from which to attack the French mainland. General Studholme Hodgson who had led the raid on the island, complained about ‘the set of wretches I have for engineers’, at which point Skinner was brought in to survey the defences and provide accommodation and shelter for the Armed Forces which had been left to hold the island.

Plan of the Citadel and Part of the Town of Palais Belle-IslePlan of the Citadel and Part of the Town of Palais Belle-Isle (Add MS 33232, f. 3)

As Chief Engineer all military building projects needed to be submitted for his approval. One such project was the building of fortifications around St John’s in Eastern Newfoundland. This area had been reclaimed from the French in 1762 after the Battle of Signal Hill, which was the final battle of the Seven Years War in North America.

watercolour View of Conception Bay, NewfoundlandA View of Conception Bay, Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 34)

William Skinner died on Christmas Day 1780. He kept on working right up until the end of his life, and had passed on his engineering talent to his grandson, who worked successfully as an engineer in the US.

All the items from Skinner’s collection are available to be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms, and one of his views of Newfoundland (Add MS 33233, f. 34) can currently be seen in our Treasures Gallery.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Catalogue links:

Maps and Plans, chiefly of fortifications or surveys for military purposes, Add MS 33231 A-PP
Surveys of Belle Isle, France, and plans and sections of its fortifications during the British occupation after its capture in 1761, Add MS 33232
Views of fortifications and landscapes, Add MS 33233

 

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

 

Image from The Life of the Buddha

Untold lives blog recent posts

Archives

Tags

Other British Library blogs