Finding aid for the Arthur Petronio papers, 1919-1971

Finding aid prepared by Laura Schroffel and Annette Leddy

Descriptive Summary

Title: Arthur Petronio papers
Date (inclusive): 1919-1971
Number: 980053
Creator/Collector: Petronio, Arthur
Physical Description: 5.7 linear feet (2 boxes, 2 flatfile folders)
The Getty Research Institute
Special Collections
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
(310) 440-7390
Abstract: Small archive of Arthur Petronio, composer of verbophonic works, or works at the intersection of poetry and music.
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Language: Collection material is in French.

Biographical/Historical Note

Arthur Petronio was born in Switzerland in 1897. His father was Leopoldo Fregoli, a music hall artist, and Arthur was trained as a classical musician. He shared in the World War I era avant-garde fascination with sound poetry, visual poetry and the music of ambient sounds, and under the influence of Wassily Kandinsky and Henri Le Fauconnier developed in 1919 a verbophonic theory for incorporating vowel sounds as elements of a musical score. He also founded several magazines that investigated connections among the arts, including La Revue de Feu, and Créer. Throughout the 1920s, Créer served as an important forum for a diverse group that included Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, E.L.T. Mesens, and others interested in the fusion of word, image, and sound into the creation of a total language. Among Petronio's most admired verbophonic works are Tellurgie (1964) and Cosmosmose (1968).

Administrative Information


Open for use by qualified researchers.

Publication Rights

Preferred Citation

Arthur Petronio Papers, 1919-1971, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession number 980053.

Acquisition Information

Acquired in 1998.

Processing History

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 the descriptive notes were written by Annette Leddy or derived from curatorial notes.

Separated Materials

Twenty-eight publications were separated from the archive and cataloged by the library as the Arthur Petronio Collection. The majority of these were fascicles of journals published by Petronio.

Scope and Content of Collection

Though not comprehensive, the Arthur Petronio papers offer a wide-ranging view of the issues and ideas that motivated the artistic avant-garde of Belgium and France in the era between the two world wars. The archive captures the importance and nature of Petronio's broader influence on contemporary artists and writers, as much as it documents his contributions to Sound Poetry.
The working drafts found in this archive, as well as the posters and other printed ephemera documenting his projects, capture Petronio's multi-media efforts to fuse music, the visual arts and poetry into one idiom. In addition to his direct role in the development of Sound Poetry, Petronio's importance lay in providing forums for debate in his numerous arts publications, and in influencing a wide array of artists. The various journals published by Petronio are represented here only through posters and printed ephemera, but the enormous impact of these journals and of Petronio himself is demonstrated in the correspondence preserved in his papers. The archive holds over 62 letters and postcards received from Petronio's associates and friends: the poet, artist, musician and photographer E.L.T. Mesens, the writer Franz Hellens, the poet Pierre Louis Floquet and the painter Henri Le Fauconnier. The contents of the letters between Petronio and Mesens, Hellens and Floquet are of particular interest because they contain theoretical discussions of the meaning and nature of art, in addition to more prosaic discussions of the contents of the journals that each was directing, the artists whose work was worthy of inclusion in these journals and the artistic direction of the Créer group led by Petronio in which Floquet, Hellens and Mesens were participating.


Arranged topically: letters received; articles, lectures, performances and other works by Petronio; CREER and miscellaneous material.

Indexing Terms

Subjects - Topics

Avant-garde (Aesthetics)
Literature, Experimental
Sound poetry

Genres and Forms of Material

Printed ephemera


Floquet, Pierre Louis
Hellens, Franz
Le Fauconnier, Henri, 1881-1945
Mesens, E. L. T., (Edouard Léon Théodore), 1903-1971

Container List


Arthur Petronio papers

Box 1, Folder 1-6

Letters received, 1921-1967

Box 1, Folder 1

Flouquet, Pierre-Louis 1931-1959

Box 1, Folder 2-4

Hellens, Franz, 1921-1967

Box 1, Folder 5

Le Fauconnier, Henri, 1925-1935

Box 1, Folder 6

Mesens, E. L. T., (Edouard Léon Théodore), 1922-1923

Box 1, 2*

Articles, lectures, performances and other works by Petronio, 1920-1966, undated

Box 1, Folder 7

"Vingt instantanés pour un univers poétique," 1949

Scope and Content Note

Contains four copies of limited original editions and one proof copy.
Box 1, Folder 8

"Tellurgie," probably 1964

Scope and Content Note

Typewritten draft of the verbophonic poem with handwritten annotations in ink by Petronio on verso of Groupe Créer manifesto.
Box 1, Folder 9

"Verbophonie et poème fiction," 1966

Scope and Content Note

Special numbered issue of excerpt from Vers universe.
Box 1, Folder 10

Untitled typescript, undated

Scope and Content Note

Pages 80-81 and 83-84 of a typewritten text with handwritten annotations in ink on verso of Groupe Créer statutes and manifesto.
Box 1, Folder 11

Program for an evening sponsored by Comité universaliste de Liège, 1920

Scope and Content Note

Music by Ruyneman, Schönberg, Satie, and Casella. Petronio speaks on "L'origine, la portée et la signification de la Musique moderne." Cover of program has drawing by Marcel Lempereur-Haut, two copies, signed and numbered 95 and 141.
Box 2*, Folder 1

Poster announcing lecture, "Un poète vous parle, ou la confession de minuit," undated

Box 1, 2*

CREER, 1922-1971, undated

Scope and Content Note

The term "créer" had particular resonance for Petronio. Functioning both as the acronym for his Centre de recherches poétiques expérimental électroacoustique régionale, and as a play on the infinitive for the French verb "to create," the term was used repeatedly by Petronio for a variety of different but interrelated projects, including one of his many arts journals, his theoretical arts group and his string quartet.
Box 1, 2*

Créer, 1927-1932, undated

Box 1, Folder 12

Exposition de Peinture et Sculpture, circa 1927

Scope and Content Note

Various materials relating to an exhibition organized by the Galerie Billiet of Paris under the auspices of Créer; including announcements and invitation.
Box 1, Folder 13

Robert Mallet-Stevens letter, 1932

Scope and Content Note

Handwritten letter sent along with his answer to a question to appear in issue number 19 of Créer.
Box 1, Folder 14

Exhibition at Gallerie du "Lit d'Argent," undated

Scope and Content Note

Three copies of exhibition announcement.
Box 2*, Folder 2-3

Posters, undated

Scope and Content Note

Includes cropped poster for issue no. 3, as well as the layout for a poster announcing that Créer will be on sale at a concert.
Box 1, 2*

Groupe Créer (Reims), 1931, undated

Box 1, Folder 15

Manifesto, circa 1931

Box 1, Folder 16

Statutes, circa 1931

Box 2*, Folder 4

Poster, undated

Box 1, Folder 17-20

Groupe Créer d'Épernay, 1932-1942

Box 1, Folder 17-19

Exhibition catalog, 1932-1942

Box 1, Folder 17


Box 1, Folder 18


Box 1, Folder 19


Box 1, Folder 20

Invitation to opening of exhibition, 1933

Flatfile 2**

Poster announcing painting exhibition, undated

Box 1, Folder 21

Le quatuor "CRÉER" de Reims, 1933

Scope and Content Note

Program for a concert of contemporary french music with Petronio playing first violin.
Box 2*, Folder 5

Créer concert poster, 1922

Box 1, Folder 22

Tractexpo internationale, Créer, 1969-1971

Box 1, 2*

Miscellaneous material, 1919-1969, undated

Box 1-2*

Printed ephemera relating to journals published by Petronio, 1919-1921, undated

Flatfile 1**

Le revue du feu poster, circa 1919

Box 1, 2*

Le libre essor, 1921, undated

Box 2*, Folder 6

Small posters announcing Issues two and three, 1921

Scope and Content Note

Announcements for issue number two and for issue number three.
Box 1, Folder 23

Postcard stock with printed return address, undated

Box 1, Folder 24

Program announcement form, 192-

Box 1, Folder 25

Catalog for Auguste Mambour exhibition sponsored by the journal, 1921

Box 1, Folder 26

Frans Vanderline drawing, signed and dated, 1969

Box 1, Folder 27

Advertising card, undated

Scope and Content Note

Includes E. L. T. Mesens gallery.