Lettrisme et hypergraphie

Year: 1972

Author: Gérard-Philippe Broutin (*1948)

Artist: J.-B. Arkitu (*1954)

Publisher: Fall

Lettrisme et hypergraphie, cover

As Baudelaire innovated poetry, Verlaine and Rimbaud innovated the verse form and Mallarmé innovated the word, so Isodore Isou (1925) brought innovation to letters. Romanian prodigy Isou (a pseudonym used by Jean-Isidore Goldstein) fled the Nazis and arrived in Paris in 1945. Once there, he established the basics of 'lettrisme'. According to Isou's concept, the letter forms the basis of all poetry as sign, image and sound as an act of creation.

Creation, Innovation, Discovery and Invention

Although 'lettrisme' is aimed at the smallest element of language, the letter, the thought behind it covers artistic, philosophical and scientific areas. It is therefore not only an avant-garde art movement that has its roots in Dadaism and Surrealism, but first and foremost an all-encompassing philosophy. Isou summarizes this philosophy with the term 'Créatique', which brings together 'creation', 'innovation', 'discovery' and 'invention' of territories and branches of artistic, philosophical and scientific knowledge.

The 'lettriste' considers the letter the basis of all those disciplines. In order to reach a completely new kind of value, he attempts to change or modify the letter in its very essence as a visual element, sign, sound and/or foundation of meaning. He does this by reversing, mirroring, splitting, combining, interpolating or extrapolating letters or their elements. He thus creates an infinite number of new forms, meanings and values.

This creation of values, as it also happened in the Renaissance and the Romantic era, can be found in various disciplines: the essay, cinema, collages/posters, the art of painting, the theatre, economics, eroticism and the novel. It is therefore not surprising that 'lettrisme' is also referred to as the last innovative movement.

The 'groupe lettriste'

Concretely speaking, 'lettrisme' is constructed around the 'groupe lettriste'. Among the members of this first generation of 'lettristes' were Isidore Isou, Gabriel Pomerand (1926-1972) and Maurice Lemaître (1926). The little autonomous works of art in this edition of Lettrisme et hypergraphie date from a later period of 'lettrisme', but they contain artworks from both the first and the second generation of 'lettristes'. Entirely in the spirit of its own philosophy, 'lettrisme' continuously innovates and branches out. One branch of 'lettrisme' named 'hypergraphie' for instance deals not with printed letters but with hand-written ones. The independent communities within the 'groupe lettriste' also each tend to develop their own self-sufficient projects.

  • Originele bijdrage van Roland Sabatier (gemengde techniek)

The seduction of the strange

Strange words or characters – whether they are ancient runes or Chinese, Arabic, or Russian characters – have always held an immense attraction to our minds. That is also the power of 'lettrisme' and the fascinating and original creations produced by the 'lettristes'. They seduce us with the strange, which is often reminiscent of Arabic calligraphy, Egyptian hieroglyphs, tattoos, or contemporary graffiti. The authentic paintings by Arkitu, Canal, Sabatier, and Darrell clearly illustrate this.

Four 'lettristes': Arkitu, Canal, Sabatier, Darrell

J.-B. Arkitu, who joined the 'groupe lettriste' in May 1968, was initially guided by the first technical rule of 'lettrisme': the amplic phase ('phase amplique'), in which every possible stylistic combination of printed text is explored. He later devoted himself to 'hypergraphie', developing a highly personal style within this field.

Arkitu's explorations of hand-written letters are innovative and original; they are no longer recognizable, and this gives them an entirely unique value and power of expression.

The style of Françoise Canal (1944) was initially playful and intuitive, and seemed to move in all directions at once with its multitude of signs and symbols. This later changed into specific, well-considered, and modest compositions. Her contribution to this edition is one of them, in spite of the bright pink gouache.

The thoroughbred 'lettriste' Roland Sabatier (1942) devoted himself to the theatre, film, and photography, combining lettrism with hypergraphy, collage, and science. He published a 'roman hypergraphique', also producing a variation on Man Ray's 'rayographies'. Sabatier was the one who dubbed them 'rayogrammes', in which not the objects but the handwriting and letters left their imprint on photo paper during the development process. In his contribution to Lettrisme et hypergraphie, collage, hypergraphy and science are brought together.

Originele prent door Myriam Darrell (Marie-Louise Nadal)

The work of Myriam Darrell-Spacagna (1944) is puzzling and refined, and it was produced in a style that is located somewhere between graffiti and elegant hypergraphy. She may be the one who was best able to express the attraction of the mysteriousness of signs.

Bibliographical description

Description: Lettrisme et hypergraphie / Gérard-Philippe Broutin ... [et al.]. – Paris : Fall, 1972. - 70 p. : ill. ; 27 cm. – (Bibli opus)

Printer: Serg (Ivry)

Oplage: 75 (special copies)

This copy: Number 62 of 75

Note: With original gouaches in Chinese ink by Arkitu, Broutin, Canal, Berreur, Curtay, Gillard, Hachette, Isou, Latour, Lemaître, Poulain, Poyet, Sabatier, Satié, Sarthou, Spacagna, Studeny, Tarkieltaub, Tayarda, Venturini and Darrell-Spacagna, all signed and dated by the artists.

Note: With a supplementary gouache by Arkitu

Bibliography: Bénézit 12-152

Shelfmark: KW Koopm K 336


  • Gérard-Philippe Broutin, Lettrisme et hypergraphie. Paris, Fall, 1972
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voix et visions. La Collection Koopman et l'Art du Livre français. La Haye, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Bibliothèque nationale des Pays-Bas; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
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  • Isidore Isou, Les lettristes sont irrécupérables jusqu'à la société de l'éternité concrète, paradisiaque. Paris, Jannink, 2005
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