Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dulac's Hans Christian Anderson Illustrations

The Hollywood Animation archive has a gallery of stunning children's book illustrations by Edmund Dulac (1882 –1953).
The invention of chromolithography at the end of the 19th century opened up a new world for book illustrators. It was no longer necessary for illustrators to limit the number of colors and focus on high contrast line work. The printing press was now capable of reproducing oil paintings and watercolors with all of the richness of the original artwork. This resulted in an explosion of illustrated books around the turn of the century, and made superstars of the artists who created them.

Art is all about beautiful contrasts, and so is the use of color... warm colors against cool colors, light ones against dark ones, large areas of color against small ones... Edmund Dulac was a master at juggling these contrasts to create a pleasing color scheme from a muted palette. Some of the pictures in today's post are almost monochromatic, with a variety of shades and shapes defining the image. Others have a variety of hues all around the same value. Dulac is constantly varying the way he handles the lighting and color to convey the feeling of the story.
Note to contemporary children's book illustrators: why bother?