Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Lettrist movement papers
Date (inclusive): 1949-1988
5.75 linear feet
(3 boxes, 2 flatfile folders)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
Assorted material from the Lettrist movement, including manuscripts, printed essays and tracts, and exhibition ephemera.
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Language: Collection material is in French.
Lettrism was founded in 1945 by Romanian poet Isidore Isou who, with the help of Gabriel Pomerand, distributed leaflets in
Paris announcing that letters had superseded words as the avant-garde's preferred medium. In 1946 the first Lettrist manifesto
was published. In the same year the first exhibition was held, featuring drawings, paintings and sculptures made of Roman
letters. In 1949 Isou published a tract advocating sexual promiscuity,
La Mécanique des femmes, for which he was briefly incarcerated, and over the subsequent twenty years, Lettrism's scope included everything from art
and literature to film, social mores and electoral politics. Various offshoots of the movement developed, including Lettrism
International, formed when Guy Debord broke with Isou; Debord subsequently founded the Situationist International.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Lettrist movement papers, 1949-1988, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 900263
In 2009 with grant funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Laura Schroffel processed the collection
and made an inventory under the supervision of Ann Harrison, while Annette Leddy helped devise the arrangement and wrote the
In 1990 the Getty Research Institute acquired a collection of circa 200 items documenting the history and activities of the
Lettrist movement. This collection was subsequently separated. The published material from the collection, that is the books
and serials, circa 150 items, were cataloged by the library as the Lettrist Movement Collection. The unpublished material,
circa 50 items, forms the Lettrist Movement papers.
Scope and Content of Collection
This assembled archive of approximately 50 assorted items is a portion of a larger acquisition documenting the development
of the Lettrist movement. Included here are manuscripts, tracts, exhibition catalogs, posters and printed ephemera relating
to Isidore Isou, the founder of the movement, and other key members such as Maurice Lemaître, Alain Satié, and Jean-Louis
Brau, as well as a range of collaborative works.
The archive includes eight items by Isou mostly from the 1970s and 1980s, one regarding the "brain-pollution" of a former
colleague, another a "communiqué" to President Giscard d'Estaing. There are nine items by Isou's compatriot, Maurice Lemaître,
including a tract arguing that Isou should be awarded the Nobel Prize. A collection highlight is a set of brilliantly colored
Revue littéraire letteriste, each one of which is a poster-size visual "novel" by a different artist/writer. There is also an art object,
Les mots parlent (1971) which consists of a partially opened sardine can containing an advertisement for wine that has been cut into pieces
like a jigsaw puzzle.
Materials by individual artists/authors are grouped together, followed by a list of materials from collaborative projects.
Subjects - Topics
Genres and Forms of Material
Brau, Jean Louis
Lemaître, Maurice, 1926-
Satié, Alain, 1944-