An exceptional exchange of ideas arose in the fin de siècle between artists from different disciplines, including printmakers and writers.
Printmakers designed frontispieces and illustrations for new and reprinted novels, but the ultimate form of collaboration was the artists' book, in which the illustrations were given equal weight as the text.
Symbolist artists and authors were united in their desire to express the hidden worlds that lay behind visible reality.
Georges de Feure’s print series Bruges: mystique et sensuelle, for instance, was not a literal visualisation of the novel Bruges la morte by Georges Rodenbach.
Instead, the medieval Flemish town provided author and artist alike with a foundation on which to build a parallel mystical and sensual dream world.
Working for a living
Symbolist artists chiefly made prints for expensive bibliophile editions aimed at the elite.
More down-to-earth caricaturistes-illustrateurs like Jules Chéret and Alexandre-Théophile Steinlen, by contrast, produced lithographic book covers and advertisements for the cheaper paperbacks that were published in large editions.
In so doing, these artists simultaneously reached a large audience with their innovative art, while ensuring they could earn a living.
Pierre-Louis Mathieu, La génération symboliste, Geneva 1990
Henri Dorra (ed.), Symbolist Art Theories. A Critical Anthology, Berkeley 1994
Clément Dessy, Patrick McGuinness, Les écrivains et les Nabis. La littérature au défi de la peinture, Rennes 2015