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Finding aid for the Lettrist movement papers, 1949-1988
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Lettrist movement papers
    Date (inclusive): 1949-1988
    Number: 900263
    Creator/Collector: Mouvement lettriste
    Physical Description: 5.75 linear feet (3 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: Assorted material from the Lettrist movement, including manuscripts, printed essays and tracts, and exhibition ephemera.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in French.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    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poet Isidore Isou who, with the help of Gabriel Pomerand, distributed leaflets in Paris announcing that letters had superseded words as the avant-garde's preferred medium.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.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Lettrist movement papers, 1949-1988, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 900263

    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 Annette Leddy helped devise the arrangement and wrote the descriptive notes.

    Separated Materials

    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 issues of 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.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Literature, Experimental

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Art objects
    Printed ephemera
    Tracts (documents)


    Brau, Jean Louis
    Isou, Isidore
    Lemaître, Maurice, 1926-
    Satié, Alain, 1944-