René Bull – Carmen


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Watercolour, pencil and pen and ink on paper. Signed by the artist (lower left) with a further inscription (written after publication); To May Carter with all best wishes from: – René Bull. This painting is illustrated in the book ‘Carmen’, by Prosper Mérimée, translated by A. E. Johnson. Pub; London: Hutchinson & Co., 1916. Mounted and framed.

Watercolour: 9 3/4 x 7 1/4 in. (24.7 x 18.5 cm.)
Frame: 23 x 17 in. (58.3 x 43.1 cm.)

The scene shows Carmen as she taunts Don Jose at the tavern of Lillas Pastia.

Rene Bull’s vibrant illustrations perfectly capture the intense drama of love and jealousy in Prosper Mérimée’s tale which was the basis for Georges Bizet’s opera of the same title. The book consists of Sixteen Full-Page Colour Plates by René Bull and seventy-four black and white illustrations in the text.


Bull, René (1872-1942)

René Bull was a British illustrator and photographer. He was born in Dublin on 11 December 1872 to a French mother and an English father. He went to Paris to study engineering but embarked on an artistic career after meeting and taking drawing lessons from the French satirist and political cartoonist Caran d' Ache (Emmanuel Poiré). Bull returned to Ireland to contribute sketches and political cartoons to various publications, including the 'Weekly Freeman'. Moving to London in 1892, Bull drew for "Illustrated Brits" and created cartoons in the style of Caran d'Ache for 'Pick-Me-Up' from 1893. In 1896 Bull joined Black and White illustrated newspaper as a special artist and photographer. In 1898, he covered the Tirah Campaign in India and went on to Sudan for the campaign culminating in the Battle of Omdurman. He went to South Africa to record the Boer War until the relief of Ladysmith in March 1900. As he was wounded in 1900, Bull was invalided out. He settled in England and drew cartoons for such magazines as BystanderChumsLondon OpinionLika Joko. In The Sketch Bull created cartoons of humorous inventions, predating those of William Heath Robinson. From 1905 he illustrated books, starting with an edition of Fontaine's 'Fables'. Other major titles he illustrated included The Arabian Nights (1912), Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1913), The Russian Ballet (1913), Carmen (1915), Andersen's Fairy Tales. In 1914, Bull joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a lieutenant and was eventually transferred to the Royal Air Force where he reached the rank of Major. In World War II Bull joined the Air Ministry for technical duties. He died on 14 March 1942.