Edmund Dulac and the Salle des Illustres

22nd October 2018

Almost two decades ago my parents moved to South West France and in order to visit them I’ve often flown into Toulouse airport, hopped in a car and driven 90 minutes North deep into rural Tarn and Garonne. On a recent visit we took the time to stop in Toulouse and for the first time visited the city’s main public  building, Le Capitole. It lines one side of the main square, Place Capitole, and is an imposing public building, housing the town hall, public offices and opera house.


Entry to Le Capitole is free of charge and inside is one of the most delightful and surprising galleries I have had the pleasure of visiting, the Salle des Illustres. Established in 1892, when the mayor of Toulouse decided to create an immense gallery decorated exclusively by Toulouse artists. It is made up of a series of high ceilinged rooms reached via a sweeping marble staircase and in between the gold painted pillars the walls and ceilings are adorned with enormous works of art.


The staircase showcases paintings by Jean-Paul Laurens, a Toulouse artist and tutor, whose pupils included a young Edmund Dulac.



Salle Henri Martin features two magnificent series of impressionist paintings, The Seasons and Les Bords de la Garonne, the banks of the Garonne, with portraits of Martin and his contemporaries, including Dulac’s tutor, Laurens.


Other rooms include the Salle Paul Gervais, decorated with allegories of love, painted on a huge scale with colours reminiscent of the pre-Raphaelite period.



It struck me that these paintings were being created when a young Edmund Dulac was just embarking on his study of art. Although none of Dulac’s work is featured in the gallery, his teacher and contemporaries’ works must have influenced his early career and here and there is a glimmer of recognition of images and themes that reappear in the book illustrations of Edmund Dulac.

From Edmund Dulac's Sleeping Beauty and other Tales 

From Edmund Dulac's The Bells and other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

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