(Watercolor by Edmund Dulac, from Cinderella in The Sleeping Beauty and other Tales, 1910)
In Nov. of 2007, the Dulwich Picture Gallery exhibited a survey of the Golden Age of Book Illustration. THE AGE OF ENCHANTMENT is also a gorgeous book by the curator of this exhibition, Rodney Engen. Beginning with work of Aubrey Beardsley, it includes 165 color illustrations by Beardsley, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, and the Detmold Twins, to name just a few. Examining a time when the "beautiful decadence" of Beardsley "softened to delight rather than to shock," Mr. Engen supplies the details. He describes a time when trade with Japan and China influenced Western artists, and he provides a context for understanding a cultural shift of spirit and style.
This is the kind of luxurious book that should be read slowly. The historical perspective can be sampled a little at a time. (The biographical information is fascinating and often sad.) And the pictures, without any words at all, can pull you into their fantastic stories.