Modern artists in the fin de siècle threw themselves into commercial graphic art, making posters, sheet music, illustrations and theatre programmes.
As a result, their designs had to take account of the accompanying texts.
Most of them sought to achieve a decorative unity between word and image.
Illuminated books from the Middle Ages and, more recently, those produced by the English Arts & Crafts movement, were the most important model in this regard.
Vollard as creative publisher
The art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard asked Pierre Bonnard to illustrate the erotic poems in Paul Verlaine’s Parallèllement with original prints.
Vollard saw himself as a creative publisher and he even set out to find a suitable typeface of his own.
He opted for the elegant but sober Garamond, which was extremely unusual for such luxurious editions.
Together with Bonnard, whose pink lithographs fluttered freely over the page, he produced one of the most attractive books of the fin de siècle.
Text as image in posters
When designing a poster, an attractive solution also had to be found for the brand name or advertising text.
Poster artists like Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec worked directly on the lithographic stone to create designs that integrated image and words.
Their bright colours and playful lines gave visual expression to the text, so that it would be capable of attracting the attention of the passer-by at a single glance in the street.
Hans H. Hofstätter, Art Nouveau. Prints, Illustrations and Posters, Ware 1984
Emilie Sitzia, Art in Literature, Literature in Art in 19th Century France, New Castle upon Tyne 2012
Ruth Iskin, The Poster. Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s-1900s, Lebanon 2014