Citroen, Roelof Paul

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CITROEN, ROELOF PAUL (1896–1983), Dutch visual artist and important collector of modern art in the Netherlands. Citroen was born to Dutch parents in Berlin. His oeuvre – mostly drawings, paintings, and photographs – can be characterized as a mixture of modern vision and a more traditional naturalism. Between 1908 and 1912 Citroen received a traditional education at the Studien-Atelier fuer Malerei und Plastik in Berlin. After his acquaintance with avant-garde art in the expressionist Sturm bookshop/gallery in 1914, he became its representative and introduced the German expressionists in Holland. Inspired by the Dadaist collages of artists like Erwin Blumenfeld, he dedicated himself to making photo collages, of which his Metropolis (1923) brought him international fame. In 1922 he continued to study painting and drawing at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Here one of his teachers was Johannes Itten, who strongly influenced his ideas about art education, which Citroen would later bring into practice. In 1929, after having settled in Amsterdam and inspired by Berlin photographer Marianne Breslauer, he began to experiment with portrait photography. When he gave up photography professionally in 1935, he had made numerous portraits of artists, family, and acquaintances. In 1931 he published Palet: een boek gewijd aan de hedendaagsche Nederlandsche schilderkunst, the first book on the theory of modern art to be written in Holland and containing several of Citroen's portraits. In 1933 Citroen founded, together with the painter Charles Roelofsz, the Nieuwe Kunst-school (New Art School) in Amsterdam, the first free academy in Holland, where, on the model of the Bauhaus, the new art was taught. In 1935 Citroen was appointed as a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts at The Hague, where he continued to work until his retirement in 1960, interrupted only during his years in hiding. After World War ii he made numerous portraits, mostly of famous people – his total oeuvre consists of around 7,000 portraits – in which he distanced himself from modernism in favor of a psychological approach which placed the human psyche at its core. The book Paul Citroen, as Seen by Mari Andriessen, Johan Bendien, Anna Blaman … (The Hague 1956) contains a collection of Citroen's portraits of famous personalities, such as Marc Chagall, Thomas Mann, Yehudi Menuhin, Oskar Kokoschka, and Henry Moore, together with their evaluations of the artist. His drawings of landscapes, the majority of which he produced during the 1970s and 1980s, reflect a more naturalistic approach, which stems from his increased attachment to nature. Beside Palet, other art books appeared from his hand, such as Kunsttestament (1952) and Introvertissimento (1956).


H. van Rheeden, M. Feenstra, and B. Rijkschroeff, Paul Citroen. Kunstenaar, docent, verzamelaar/ Künstler, Lehrer, Sammler (1994); P. Citroen, Paul Citroen. Portretten (1975); F. Bool et al. (eds.), Paul Citroen (1896–1983), in the series Monografieën van Nederlandse fotografen, 7 (1996).

[Julie-Marthe Cohen (2nd ed.)]