Edmund Dulac’s Sinbad the Sailor


I mentioned Edmund Dulac’s Sinbad book in an earlier post but didn’t show many his illustrations on that occasion so here they are. Most of these pictures are a long way from Ray Harryhausen’s Sturm und Drang but they’re not without their complement of monsters and afreets.


Sinbad the Sailor & Other Stories from the Arabian Nights was published in 1914. No author is credited, which suggests the text might have been by Dulac himself but it’s more likely to be another retelling of the tales by Laurence Housman with whom Dulac collaborated on similar titles. Sinbad the Sailor is one of Dulac’s best books, a prime example of the ease with which he could combine influences from Persian miniatures, Chinese painting and Japanese prints all done in the watercolour technique employed by contemporaries such as Arthur Rackham.


The plate at the top of this post showing a princess battling an afreet made a striking cover image for the American edition of Fantasy: The Golden Age of Fantastic Illustration (1975) by Brigid Peppin, a study of book illustration from the 1860s to the 1920s. The British edition used a Dulac illustration from The Snow Queen which seems dull in comparison, and an odd choice for a volume filled with so much exceptional art. The book itself is an excellent collection, however, and one I’d recommend to anyone interested in this period of illustration.



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Laurence Housman’s The Sensitive Plant


Shelley’s The Sensitive Plant is a lengthy poem written after the death of Percy and Mary Shelley’s first child. Laurence Housman illustrates the sombre garden scenes in a minutely detailed manner, and manages to incorporate some concerns of his own. Pan isn’t mentioned in the poem but Housman adds a Pan figure which he describes in a note as “the garden deity”, and a symbol of nature untamed.



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Laurence Housman’s End of Elfintown


More Laurence Housman, and a book I’d not seen before. Jane Barlow’s The End of Elfintown (1894) is a typical piece of Victorian fairy poetry—her “elves” are also flower-dwelling “Fays”, and Oberon is mentioned—but Housman’s renderings give a very different impression. In place of the usual delicate creatures he shows a very sensual company, all satyr ears and enormous Pre-Raphaelite manes. The frontispiece is very Beardsley-like, especially those entwined roses.



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The Reflected Faun


Another one to add to the stock of fauns, satyrs and Pan figures that proliferate from the 1890s to the 1920s, Laurence Housman’s The Reflected Faun appeared in The Yellow Book in 1894. The magazine’s publisher, John Lane, also published Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan in the same year although an early version of Machen’s story had appeared a few years before. What’s notable about Housman’s drawing is the way he combines in a single image several distinct themes: Faunus/Pan, the reflected Narcissus, and all those tales of beguiling spirits lurking in water. The nature of the spirit in this picture is distinctly androgynous, a detail that wouldn’t have impressed those critics who considered The Yellow Book to be an unwholesome publication. The androgyny may be taken as deliberate: Housman was one of London’s “Uranian” artists, and a few years later joined George Cecil Ives’ Order of Chaeronea, a secret society for gay men and lesbians. In the light of this, the drawing might be interpreted as a symbol for a clandestine existence where true desires remain buried or submerged.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aubrey Beardsley’s Keynotes
In the Key of Yellow
Ads for The Yellow Book
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Great God Pan
Peake’s Pan