Maurice Lemaître

Les grands Crèateurs de la Photographie Revisitès par Lemaitre

Declarations Photographiques

Maurice Lemaître (b. 1926) is a French poet, painter, filmaker, and playwright who joined the Lettrists in 1950 and, alongside the movement's founder Isidore Isou, has been one of its leading figures ever since.

Bismuth-Lemaître Papers

Bismuth-Lemaître Papers


The collection provides comprehensive documentation of the development and evolution of Lettrism, and also sheds light on the post-war avant-garde and related cultural movements in Europe, particularly France, during the second half of the twentieth century.

The collection consists of writings by Lemaître and others, including Isidore Isou; editorial files for the numerous serials published by Lemaître; screenplays, production material, and publicity material for Lemaître’s avant-garde films; correspondence with other Lettrists (including Isou, Gabriele Pomerand, Roland Sabatier, and Alain Satié, as well as editors, intellectuals, and museum and gallery directors); audio recordings of Lettrist readings and interviews, and video recordings of Lemaître’s films; and posters, photographs, fliers, tracts, exhibition catalogs and other material relating to Lettrism.

The collection is organized into eight series:

  • Series I, Chronological Files (1946-2009), consists of clippings, letters, notes, publications, announcements, and other printed material grouped chronologically by year, documenting events, topics, issues related to Lettrism and Lemaitre's activities and interests.

  • Series II, Writing and Publishing Projects (1950-2009), consists of maquettes, drafts, photocopies, notes, letters, and other material stemming from the creation and publication of Lemaitre's works and the serials and other works he edited.

  • Series III, Writings of Others (1951-2004), contains the work of others, mainly that of Isidore Isou.

  • The Series IV contains Lemaître’s correspondence arranged largely in chronological order from 1960 to 1998.

  • Series V, Film projects (1951-1998), contains documentation relating to Lemaître's film projects with notes, registrations, and publicity. Among them there are "Le film est déjà commencé? (1951)", "Au-delà du déclic (1965)", "Toujours à l'avant-garde (1970)," "The Great Train of History (1978)".

  • Series VI is all about the Lettrist Movement Material and consists of files or dossiers on various topics, events, people, and groups associated with Lettrism and/or relating to Lemaître's cultural and political activities and interests from 1920 to 2006. This section includes also printed material, clippings files, photographs, and posters.

  • Series VII, Audiovisual Materials, includes video recordings of Lemaître's films and audio recordings of Lettrist readings and interviews from circa1953 to 2001. This section contains also video recordings of programs broadcast on television, including The Actor's Studio.

  • Series VIII consists of printing blocks that were used in the production of the review Ur, nouvelle serie, 1-7 (1963-1967).


Bismuth-Lemaître Papers Finding Aid


Other Maurice Lemaître material

Les journaux des dieux, 1950, hypergraphic novel by Isidore Isou and Lemaître.

Le film est déjà commencé?: séance de cinéma, 1952.

Isidore Isou, 1954.

Bilan lettriste, 1955.

La plastique lettriste et hypergraphique, 1956.

Journal d'un dragueur, ou, L'amour système, 1960.

La danse et le mime ciselants: lettristes et hypergraphiques, 1960.

Carnets d'un fanatique, 1961.

Pour un théâtre neuf, 1962.

Maurice Lemaître présente le lettrisme, 1963, sound recording of lettrist poems by Isidore Isou and Lemaître.

Qu'est-ce que le lettrisme?, 1964.

Le lettrisme devant dada et les nécrophages de dada, 1967.

Le Théâtre neuf..., 1967, homage to Italian and Russian Futurist theater.

Suivi de, Qui est le Docteur Ferdière?, 1970, published with a text by Isidore Isou.

Gicopu: roman hypergraphique de Jean-Paul Curtay, Jean-Pierre Gillard, François, 1971, published as part of Lemaître's Revue littéraire lettriste (no. 7).

Les existentialistes, 1971.

Poèmes et musique lettristes, 1971, sound recording.

Le roman de Marcelle: roman hypergraphique et partiellement supertemporel, 1971.

Les existentialistes II, 1972.



Front de la jeunesse, 1950, first issue of the periodical.

Ur, series 1: nos. 1-3, 1950-52/53; series 2: nos. 1-7, 1963-67.

Poésie nouvelle, nos. 1-18, 1957-62.

La lettre, nos. 1-18, 1962-64, journal created and edited by Lemaître.

Lettrisme, series 1: nos. 1-14, 1964-67; series 2: no. 1, 1968; series 3, no. 1, 1969; series 4: nos. 1-48, 1972-75; series 5: nos. 1-12, 1978-92.


Related collections

Henri Chopin and OU

Guy Debord

François Dufrêne


Sarenco and Lotta Poetica

Gil J Wolman

Maurice Lemaître

Born in Paris in 1926, Maurice Lemaître published his first article in Le Corbusier’s journal L’homme et l’architecture at the age of twenty. He went on to study philosophy at the Sorbonne, and became involved with the Libertarian Movement, contributing political articles to the group’s newspaper. In December 1949, Lemaître encountered Isidore Isou, the Romanian poet, artist, and founder of Lettrism, which at that time was still solidifying as an artistic collective. Lemaître helped Isou with the illustrations for the book Les Journaux des dieux, 1950, and assisted with his ground-breaking film Traité de bave et d’éternité, 1951. At the same time, Lemaître was also developing his own Lettrist poems, both text-based and oral, and was experimenting with incorporating symbols and images with words, a kind of pictographic technique the Lettrists termed métagraphique. Around this time, Lemaître launched two magazines simultaneously: Front de la jeunesse (Youth Front), a political periodical, and Ur, a journal of experimental poetry and literature, which often incorporated métagraphique as well as hypergraphy, a related practice in which photos, maps, and other visual elements are used in conjunction with letters and textual symbols. In 1951, he produced his first film, Le film est déjà commencé?, which imploded viewers’ narrative expectations and experimented with fracturing the images from the soundtrack. Lemaître exhibited Lettrist paintings, collages, and poetry both independently and in group shows with other members of the circle, such as Gabriel Pomerand. His artistic practice was wide-ranging, and included dance choreography (the first of which was Fuge mimique n. 1 in 1959), theatricals, photography, sculpture, stencils, silk-screens, novels, and even his own newsletter, La Lettre, starting in 1962.


Lemaître was considered Isou’s primary interlocutor and right hand man for many years, but in 1991 he published polemic texts against Isou, and by the early 2000s he distanced himself from the Lettrist circle. Over the years he has been active in shaping the public reception and historicization of the Lettrist project; for example, in 1968 he organized the Lettrist gallery at the Musée d’Art Moderne, and in 1976 he arranged the first international symposium on Lettrism. Lemaître continues to create using Lettrist techniques, but now works in relative isolation from his home in Paris.

Portrait photo d'une jurneè de Lamaitre

Lemaître's experimental films

Lemaître is well known as an experimental filmmaker and after his
debut in 1951 he made more than 100 films. Among them there are Un soir au cinéma (A Night at the Movies) 1962, Pour faire un film (How to Make a Movie), 1963, Chantal D. Star, 1968, Le Soulèvement de la jeunesse (Youth Uprising) 1968, Positif-négatif, notre film (Positive-Negative, Our Film) 1970, Montage (Editing) 1976, Tous derrière Suzanne pure et dure (All Behind Pure and Hard Suzanne) 1978, 4 films anti-supertemporels (4 Anti-supertemporal Films) 1978, Résilience (Resilience) 2005-2007.
His first and perhaps most famous movie, Le film est déjà commencé? (Has the Film Started Yet?), was presented November 12, 1951 at the Musée de l'Homme a Paris. In Lemaitre's words "this film sought to be a kind of general butchering of the cinema" and the movie itself was considered to be only one part of a bigger performance. At the premiere the audience was locked out of the cinema for an hour, during which time water and talcum powder were thrown on them. Inside the cinema there was "a portable rose-colored screen" showing Giffith's Intolerance (1916). After such a long wait, the audience finally entered the movie theater, only to be confronted by actors disguised as attendees, who proceeded to disturb the audience by yelling and riding bikes in the movie theater. The idea of disruptions and the use of disorienting technique is typical of Lemaître's art. This movie
anticipated the practice of détournement, later defined and practiced by "situationists", and represented a parody against cinematic convention. Lemaître also disclosed the mechanics of film by showing the filmstrip's black frame borders, sprocket holes, and splices. In the screenplay, Lemaître stated: "A pink moving screen will stand at the entrance to the theatre, in the night. One hour before the screening a projectionist will show Griffith's "Intolerance" on this screen. The start of the film will be announced at 8.30 but no one will enter before 9.30. During these 60 minutes of waiting, people on the first floor of the building will shake out very dusty carpets, and someone else will throw ice water on the heads of those spectators waiting for the screening. Some actors who have infiltrated the crowd will insult other actors on the first floor. At this moment only, and to stop the beginning of a scandal, the doors of the theatre will open..."
At the end of the premiere in Paris it was announced to the public
that the film had to be interrupted because the last reel couldn't be found. Even the police arrived at the conclusion of the show as it has been written in the screenplay.


Folder containing "The film est déjà commencé? (1951)"', original project.

Revised version of "The film est déjà commencé? (1951)" with author's notes

Hypergraphy will call on all the processes of the plastic arts and photography in making stories or texts in which the words are replaced by painting or photographs of what would formerly have been described.



Video resources

Maurice Lemaître, Le film est déjà commencé?., 1951, divided here into two parts.

Toujours à l'Avant-Garde de l'Avant-Garde, Jusqu'au Paradis et Au-Delà! (1970) (extrait)

Maurice Lemaitre - Maurice Lemaitre, Le Retour (part1) 1998-2003

Maurice Lemaitre - Resilliance (début)(2005-2007)