Skip to main content

Société des Amis d’Isidore Isou correspondence

 Collection — Box: BW-7
Identifier: MS-0739

Scope and Contents (French)

Original French dealer description:

- Lettre circulaire envoyée par la Société des amis d’Isidore Isou. Président Eugène Ionesco, signée par Maurice Lemaître. Feuillet ronéoté au recto. - Idem avec mention manuscrite en rouge “Deuxième rappel”. - Liste [de noms] des lettres envoyées.

2 feuillets dactylographiés. - Première liste des membres de la Société....[Liste des personnes ayant répondues]. Feuillet ronéoté au recto. - Réponses de : Marcel Achard, Hervé Bazin, André Billy [Figaro Littéraire], Henri Copli, Jules Dassin, Philippe Dumaine, Claire Duhamel, Maurice Genevoix, Franz Hellens [nom de plume de Frédéric Van Ermengem], Kléber Haedens, Jean Hélion, Pierre Jean Jouve, Pierre Lazreff, Jean Max Leclerc, Philippe de Rothschild, Robert

Margerit [journaliste et écrivain français], Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli, Romain Roussel, Jean Rousselo, Arthur Rubinstein, Armand Salacrou, Lea Salmon [Librairie La Hune], Jacques Sereys, Serge Veber, Paul Louis Weiller. Lettres et cartes manuscrites [le plus souvent] ou dactylographiées, parfois avec enveloppes, datées entre novembre 1970 et septembre 1971

- Photocopies de chèques reçus.

- Lettres de Maurice Lemaître à Jules Dassin 2 pages dactylographiées datées du 28 mai 1971, expliquant qui était Isou.

- 7 Lettres “officielles" de remerciements. Dactylographiées et signées par Lemaître.

- 4 lettres de Maurice Lemaître à Eugène Ionesco [octobre 70] et à Marcel Achard [janvier et mars 1972] et un texte dactylographié avec ajouts manuscrits de Lemaître “Note à tous nos amis et sympathisants à propos de la création de la Société des amis....”. Au début des années 70, la situation d’Isidore Isou est très précaire. Maurice Lemaître a alors l’idée de créer une “Société des amis d’Isidore Isou” pour lui venir en aide. Très actif, il contacte plus de 200 personnalités : acteurs, cinéastes, journalistes, éditeurs, écrivains, galeristes et intellectuels et leur demande une contribution financière. L’entreprise aura un petit succès. 50 personnes répondront à cet appel.

Scope and Contents (English)

English translation of dealer description:

Circular letter, with the letterhead: "Friends of Isidore Isou. President Eugene Ionesco," signed by Maurice Lemaître. Also includes another copy of the same circular, but handwritten in red with, "Second call". Additionally includes lists of names letters were sent to.

Correspondence from those who responded: Marcel Achard, Hervé Bazin, André Billy [Figaro Littéraire] Henri Copli, Jules Dassin, Philippe Dumaine, Claire Duhamel, Maurice Genevoix, Franz Hellens [pen name of Frédéric Van Ermengem] Kleber Haedens, Jean Helion, Pierre Jean Jouve, Lazreff Pierre, Jean Max Leclerc, Philippe de Rothschild, Robert Margerit [French journalist and writer], Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli, Romain Roussel, Jean Rousselo, Arthur Rubinstein, Armand Salacrou, Lea Salmon [La Hune Librairie] Jacques Sereys Serge Veber, Paul Louis Weiller. Correspondence includes handwritten or typed letters and cards, sometimes comes with envelopes, dated between November 1970 and September 1971.

Photocopies of checks received.

Letter between Lemaître and Jules Dassin, typed and dated 28 May 1971.

Letters of appreciation, typewritten and signed by Lemaître.

Letters between Lemaître and Ionesco [October 1970]; and Marcel Achard [January and March 1972]; along with a typescript with handwritten additions by Lemaître: "Note to all our friends and supporters about the creation of the Society of Friends .... ".


  • Creation: 1970 - 1972


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical note

Isidore Isou (1925-2007), born Isidor Goldstein, was a Romanian-born French poet, film critic and visual artist. He was the founder of Lettrism, an art and literary movement which owed inspiration to Dada and Surrealism. Born into a Jewish family in Botoşani, Isou started his career as an avant-garde art journalist during World War II, shortly after the August 23 coup saw Romania joining the Allies (see Romania during World War II). With the future social psychologist Serge Moscovici, he founded the magazine Da, which was soon after closed down by the authorities. He moved to Paris, having developed many concepts that intended a total artistic renewal starting from the most basic elements of writing and visual communication. He adopted then the French first name "Jean" (John in Engllish) and the pseudonym "Isidore Isou". He called himself a Lettriste, a movement of which he was initially the only member (at the age of 16 he had published the Manifesto in 1942) and published a system of Lettrist hypergraphics. Others soon joined him, and the movement continues to grow, albeit at times under a confusing number of different names.

In 1951 the young Isou released his experimental and revolutionary film Traité de bave et d'éternité (Treatise on Venom And Eternity), work deemed revolting by many critics present at the premiere. Including a reflexive discourse on the making of a new cinema, it became a virtual Lettriste film manifesto. Attacking many film conventions by chiseling away at them in his film, Isou introduced the concept of "discrepancy cinema" where the sound track has little or nothing to do with the accompanying images. The sound track of Treatise on Venom and Eternity begins with jarring and unpleasant human noises, which continue in low volume throughout the spoken dialogue. In addition, the celluloid on which the film was recorded was attacked with destructive techniques such as scratches and bleaching. The film caused a scandal at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, and was later introduced into the United States, where it influenced avant-garde film makers such as Stan Brakhage. In the early fifties one segment of Orson Welles film journal, which was entitled Le Letrrisme est la Poesie en Vogue, included an interview with the young Isou and Maurice Lemaitre.

In the 1960s Lettrist, Lettrist-influenced works and Isidore Isou gained a great deal of respect in France. The influential writer Guy Debord the artist Gil J. Wolman and the writer and artist Gabriel Pomerand worked with Isou. Debord and Wolman later broke away to form the Lettrist International, which later merged with the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, and the London Psychogeographical Association to form the Situationist International, a dissident revolutionary group. In this new form using means acquired over the course of a decade prior, Lettrist art exerted a profound influence upon the posters, barricades, even designs for clothing in the attempted revolution of 1968. Although it had seemed a highly self-contained art in the post-war period, in 1968 it became more deeply involved in active social change than such movements as Existentialism and Surrealism, and came closer to producing actual transformation than these movements.

Isou's final public appearance was at the University of Paris on October 21, 2000. Crippled by ill health, he remained house-bound until his death in 2007. Many of his works, and those of the other Lettrists, have recently been reprinted in new editions, together with much hitherto unpublished material, most notably Isou's very large La Créatique ou la Novatique (1941-1976) (1,390 pages).

In July 2007, Kino International released a DVD collection Avant-Garde 2: Experimental Films 1928-1954 which included Isou's film Traité de Bave et d'Èternité (Venom and Eternity) (1951).


Administrative History

The Société des Amis d’Isidore Isou, or the Friends of Isidore Isou, was organized in France to assist and support Isidore Isou, founder of Lettrism, an art and literary movement which owed inspiration to Dada and Surrealism. Isou's political and financial situation was precarious in the 1970s, and thus friends and admirers led by Maurice Lemaître, had the idea to create the organization. Eugène Ionesco, one of the foremost figures of the French Avant-garde theatre, acted as president. Lemaître contacted over 200 personalities, including: actors, filmmakers, journalists, editors, writers, intellectuals and gallery owners. Petitioning them for a financial contribution, the project was ultimately a small success, as 50 people responded enthusiastically to contribute and become "Friends" of this society.


0.167 Cubic Feet (1 legal size folder)

Language of Materials



The Société des Amis d’Isidore Isou, or the Friends of Isidore Isou, was organized in 1970s France to assist and support Isidore Isou (1925-2007), founder of Lettrism, an art and literary movement which owed inspiration to Dada and Surrealism. This collection primarily includes the society's earliest correspondence, which documents requests for financial contributions to the newly-formed group, spanning 1970 to 1972.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased from Philippe Luiggi in 2015.

Processing Information

This collection was processed in December 2015 by Annie Tang.

Société des Amis d’Isidore Isou correspondence
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA