Jean Daive, Antoni Tàpies

Year: 1975

Author: Jean Daive (*1941)

Artist: Antoni Tàpies (1923 - 2012)

Publisher: Maeght éditeur

Jean Daive, Antoni Tàpies (1975): cover

The meeting of the French-speaking Belgian Jean Daive and the Catalan Spaniard Antoni Tàpies is almost self-evident; both avant-garde artists are fascinated by numbers, signs and symbols. In Tàpies' oeuvre they occur frequently, and they are no exception in Daive's poems. It is not easy to find out who designed the title for this artist's book – a special sign. In artist's books, it is this interaction between author and artist and between text and image that is important. Tàpies' hand-painted version on the title page, for instance, is an 'explanation' of Daive's first lines 'I reversed the numbers of a diagonal / I reversed the wing' (‘j’inversais les nombres d’une diagonale / j’inversais l’aile’).

Silence: the poems of Jean Daive

Although Daive made radio programmes for a living, his poetry is mainly characterised by a fascination for silence. Maybe that is precisely what signs are: silent messages, without words. They are symbolised by a predominantly white type page. Daive's poems are hermetic. His aphoristic, elliptic style leaves much room for varied interpretations by readers. It is not without reason that his poems are compared to those of the Romanian-German poet Paul Celan. A French anthology of Celan's poems translated by Daive appeared under the title Strette et autres poèmes.

Celan translated Daive's debut (Décimale blanche) into German. From his correspondence it appears that at an early age Daive was very much impressed by Celan's poem Sprachgitter, about the impossibility to convey an essential message by language alone. The difference with Celan is that the verses are no longer fixedly registered, but, against convention, are put widely apart: one line at the top ('«un peu de') and at the bottom ('rat'), with much white in between. On the right hand page, at the bottom, the line is apparently finished ('un peu de père»’).

Signs and symbols of Antoni Tàpies

Apparently, because Tàpies adds his own fingerprint, as if he were a bit of a father ('un peu de père »'). He too breaks with traditions. He paints numbers, letters, signs and symbols as if they were (and in stead of) figurative images. They can be individual, but they can also complete one of Daive's printed verse lines and words.

Daive published his first poems in 1967, in the magazine L'Éphémère which had been established three years earlier by the publisher and maecenas Aimé Maeght together with Du Bouchet and Bonnefoy. The word 'Éphémère' indicates the fleeting, the transitory, but it also means 'neutral value'. The magazine does not contain standard criticism or analyses. It contrasts old and new poetry with works of art. In this way, text and image can speak for themselves and for each other.

Description bibliographiques

Description: Jean Daive, Antoni Tàpies / [texte] Jean Daive ; [ill.] Antoni Tàpies. - Paris : Maeght éditeur, 1975. - [80] p. ; 25 cm

Printer: Adrien Maeght (Paris)

Edition: 620 copies

This copy: Number 180 of 500 on vélin chiffon

Typeface: Caslon

Bibliography: Bénézit 13-465 ; In liefde verzameld-49; Johnson 30-508; Monod 3362

Shelfmark: KW KOOPM B 1084


  • Jan K. Birksted, Modernism and the Mediterranean: The Maeght Foundation. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004
  • Jean-Marie Gleize, 'Daive, Jean' in: Dictionnaire de poésie de Baudelaire à nos jours. Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2001, p. 176
  • Jean-Louis Prat, L’univers d’Aimé et Marguerite Maeght. Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, 1982
  • De l'écriture à la peinture. Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, 2004