The 19th-century artist, Jean-Ignace-Julien Gerard (1803-1847), known as J.J. Grandville, was an important French illustrator. Grandville moved from his birth city of Nancy to Paris to pursue his career as an illustrator, establishing himself as a skillful political cartoonist. Grandville was interested in human character and physiognomy. From satirical political cartoons to personified flowers, the illustrations of Grandville have been very influential, especially in the development of the graphic novel. Andre Breton, founder of literary Surrealism, acknowledged Grandville as an important inspiration and precursor of the artistic movement.
Grandville’s Les fleurs animées is considered a significant work in the art of French illustrated books. According to his biographer, it was Grandville’s favorite publication, embodying “poetic and gracious originality.” In early nineteenth-century Europe, interest in flowers, gardens, their symbolic value, and their place in society grew. Popular publications included flower dictionaries, collections of flower-themed poetry, and flower keepsake books. The “cult of flowers” and the pervasiveness of the flower motif became an important emblem for bourgeois popular culture.