PhotoLexicon, Volume 13, nr. 27 (September 1996) (en)

Paul Citroen

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf


Paul Citroen was one of the few visual artists in the Netherlands who openly practiced and presented photography as an artistic medium during the Interbellum. Primarily in the period 1930 to 1935, Citroen shot portraits of his family, relatives, and friends, their children and his artist friends. His photography—essentially amateur photography—reflects a vision similar to New Photography and Surrealism. Citroen obtained international renown through the Dadaistic photo collages he made during his ‘Sturm und Drang’ (‘Storm and Stress’) period (1919-1923). In his later years, Citroen chiefly painted and drew portraits and landscapes.




Roelof Paul (Paul) Citroen is born on 15 December in Berlin as the first son and second child in the family of Hendrik Roelof Citroen, a Jewish fur dealer from Amsterdam, and Ellen Philippi, a daughter of a wealthy Jewish commissioner in Berlin, who had obtained her Dutch nationality by marriage. Married in 1893, Paul’s parents live on the Derfflingerstrasse in the Tiergarten neighbourhood of Berlin.


Citroen is educated at the Humanistisch Gymnasium (‘Humanistic Advanced Secondary School’) in Berlin. Another student in his class is Erwin Blumenfeld, who also later becomes a photographer. Against his parents’ wishes, Citroen leaves school in early 1910 to attend drawing school.


Citroen studies under the direction of Martin Brandenburg, an artist from the ‘Berliner Sezession’ (‘Berlin Secession’), at the Studien-Atelier für Malerei und Plastik (‘Study Studio for Painting and Sculpture’) in Berlin-Charlottenburg the so-called ‘Brandenburg Academy’.

In 1914, Citroen’s friend and a fellow student Georg Muche takes him to the bookstore/gallery ‘Der Sturm’ at Tiergartenstrasse 34a in Berlin. Both the magazine, Der Sturm (‘The Storm’, established in 1910)—in which manifestos, discussions and ideas concerning the visual arts current at the time were published—and the art gallery (opened in 1912) were initiatives of the writer and musician Herwarth Walden. Here Citroen comes into contact with avant-garde paintings by groups such as Die Brücke (‘The Bridge’), Der Blaue Reiter (‘The Blue Rider’), Futurism, and other new art movements. Realising that as a traditional artist he will never share an affinity with these avant-garde groups, Citroen decides to give up drawing and painting.


As a Dutch citizen, Citroen is called up for compulsory military service and is subsequently stationed at Alkmaar. After several months, Citroen is released due to health issues. He returns to Berlin.


Citroen studies to become a bookseller with Edmund Meyer on the Potsdamerstrasse in Berlin. Shortly thereafter, Herwarth Walden asks him to come work in his bookstore/gallery. Working for Walden gives Citroen an opportunity to be involved in modern art in a different way, i.e. without himself being an artist. In this period, Citroen begins to collect works by modern masters.

Around 1916, his friendship with Walter Mehring—poet, cabaret entertainer and art critic from the Sturm group—brings him into contact with Richard Hülsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield, and the Dada movement in Berlin.

In 1917, Citroen moves to the Netherlands. Here he makes his living from selling books and art. He acts as an unofficial representative and spokesman for ‘Der Sturm’ and Dada.

Citroen’s old schoolmate, Erwin Blumenfeld, now joins him.


Inspired by Blumenfeld’s pasted artworks, Citroen makes his first collages from printed matter, postcards, and photos (no personal shots).

Ca. 1920

Paul Citroen and Erwin Blumenfeld found the ‘Commission for Dadaïst Culture in Holland’ in Amsterdam. Hülsenbeck appoints the two men as directors of the ‘Hollandse Dadacentrale’ (‘Dutch Dada Centre’).


Erwin Blumenfeld becomes a member of Citroen’s family through his marriage to Lena Citroen, a cousin of Paul’s.


On Georg Muche’s advice, Paul Citroen resumes his education to become an artist at the Bauhaus in Weimar. He begins with the general, formative study programme (‘Vorkurs’, ‘Basic Course’) with Johannes Itten (who is replaced by Muche for several months in order to broaden his knowledge of and become initiated into the teachings of Mazdaznan). In the workshops, Citroen also receives lessons in painting and design from Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky (among others).

In 1923, Citroen assists Klee with organising the first major Bauhaus exhibition. Citroen’s photomontage Metropolis is shown at the exhibition.

Under Otto Umbehr’s instruction, Citroen takes his first photographs around 1924. In 1924, he leaves the Bauhaus.


As a fur salesman (a profession more or less forced onto him by his father) and an art dealer, Citroen travels between Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and Basil. For the duration of his wandering existence, the house of Rein and Ann Harrenstein-Schrader in Amsterdam serves as his home base.

From 19 March to 31 October 1928, Citroen holds a residency permit to live in Switzerland. While there, he decides to stop selling furs. At the end of the year, he settles permanently in the Netherlands.


Citroen visits Marianne Breslauer in Paris, who works as an apprentice photographer for Man Ray. In Paris, Citroen also meets Werner Rohde.

On 18 December, Citroen marries Céline (Lien) Bendien, sister of the painter Jacob Bendien. The couple moves to the Kerkstraat in Amsterdam, on the corner of the Vijzelstraat. Citroen shares the studio in this building with his brother-in-law, Jacob Bendien.

Citroen receives a camera as a wedding gift from his in-laws.


Citroen’s first and only child, daughter Paulien Charlotte Lena (Paulien), is born on 27 May.


Citroen publishes Palet. Een boek gewijd aan de hedendaagsche Nederlandsche schilderkunst (‘Pallet. A Book Devoted to Contemporary Painting in the Netherlands’), illustrated with portraits of selected artists and reproductions of their work.


Citroen holds his first photo exhibition at the Kunstkelder (‘Art Cellar’) in Amsterdam.


Citroen founds the Nieuwe Kunstschool (‘New Art School’) in Amsterdam, together with Charles Roelofsz, which provides an education comparable to the Bauhaus in its set-up, upholding the same art pedagogical methods. Citroen himself and Han van Dam teach classes in painting. Hans Jaffé his hired an instructor of art history; Hajo Rose for graphic design; Jan Havermans for sculpting; Rachel Pellekan and Helen Ernst for model drawing; Alexander Bodon for architecture; and Paul Guermonprez for photography. In practice, no students show up for the photography classes.


Citroen is appointed as an instructor at the evening school for advertising at the KABK (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘Royal Academy of Art’) in The Hague. Citroen’s photography is limited solely to his family circle. He becomes a member of the BKVK (Bond van Kunstenaars ter Verdediging van de Kulturele rechten, ‘Federation of Artists in Defence of Cultural Rights’).

In search of a suitable home close to The Hague, Citroen moves with his wife and daughter into the hospitable home of Tatiana Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa, a physicist and widow (since 1933) of the physicist Paul Ehrenfest, at Witte Rozenstraat 57 in Leiden.


In August, the Citroen family moves to Oostdorperweg 100 in Wassenaar.


Citroen is appointed as a painting instructor for the full-time study programme at the KABK. In this same year, the nonsubsidised Nieuwe Kunstschool is closed due to a lack of financial means.


Citroen is fired from his position as an instructor at the KABK on 23 November by the ‘Departement van Opvoeding, Wetenschap en Kultuurbescherming’ (‘Department of Education, Science and Cultural Preservation’). He nevertheless continues to receive his salary from the academy during the war.


Citroen and his family go into hiding in ‘s-Graveland.


Citroen resumes his teaching position at the KABK in The Hague.


Lien Citroen-Bendien dies on 22 August.


Citroen marries Christi Frisch on 23 March.


Paul Citroen dies on 13 March in Wassenaar.


Christi Citroen-Frisch transfers Paul Citroen’s negative archives to the Leiden University Print Room.


Paul Citroen—’the best painter on the Oostdorperweg [a street in Amsterdam]’, as he jokingly referred to himself—was an artist in heart and soul. Having led a long and fruitful life, he left an extensive and varied oeuvre behind. His greatest passions were painting and drawing. Although he often referred to his early Dadaistic oeuvre as ‘drivel’ and ‘folly’, Citroen possessed enough of a historical awareness to avoid dismissing an appreciation for this early oeuvre. Vanity also surely played a role in this. In addition to being an artist, Citroen was as well a passionate collector. With his astute and trained eye, he recognised quality immediately. Citroen’s artistic diversity, amicable interaction with others, and sense of humour were what made him a unique personality.

Paul Citroen received his education at the Studien-Atelier für Malerei und Plastik (‘Study Studio for Painting and Sculpture’) in Berlin. The lessons taught at this school were proper and traditional, based on the pedagogical principles of Wilhelm von Schadow developed in 1826. The study comprised three stages: basic instruction, in which drawings and engravings were copied; a secondary phase, in which students made drawings of plaster models and from nature; and a final stage in which students were free to develop their own creativity. Citroen’s study material included works by two Berlin masters of graphic art: Max Liebermann and Adolf Menzel. From Liebermann, Citroen adopted the technique of making rapid sketches, never allowing the pencil to leave the paper. Drawing from nature, inspired by Menzel’s oeuvre, taught Citroen how to preserve the internal structure and coherence of his subject matter.

After the culture shock of his first encounter with avant-garde art at Gallery ‘Der Sturm’ (‘The Storm’) in 1914, Citroen stopped with drawing and painting. In the period that Dada emerged at the end of the First World War, he was still drawing very little, if at all. Citroen liked the Dadaistic ‘pasted constructions’ his friends—among them Erwin Blumenfeld—were making and he joined them enthusiastically. Montages and collages with a high satirical content were made using newspaper clippings, remnants of photos, and rubbish. The Dadaistic artists viewed these so-called ‘Klebebilder’ (‘pasted images’) as proof of their artistic freedom, i.e. a liberation from the traditional system in which reality was always presented as a whole. Dada was not interpreted the same everywhere: the manner in which the ‘movement’ was to be realised was dependent upon location and political circumstances. In Berlin, for instance, Dada’s central theme was the questioning of traditional values. With a loud uproar, the Dadaists in Berlin rebelled against the empire, the nobility, the militarism, and the narrow-mindedness that prevailed.

Citroen’s first collages date from about 1919. In their form, content, and use of text, they betray the influence of George Grosz and ‘Americanism’. Metropolis from 1923 is seen as a high point in Citroen’s oeuvre. His collages reveal a striving for renewal. At the same time, however, they reveal his traditional, naturalistic schooling: in his ‘world cities’, Citroen was unable to resist the urge of incorporating a natural element, such as the blue sky in one of the upper corners. He brought a harmonious unity to his picture-postcard buildings, which he had cut out to construct his fantasy cities. The seemingly true-to-life street perspectives that crisscross through his cities, and the suggestion of reality created using photographic material, contribute as well to the naturalistic component that typifies his collages. None of these collages are truly political in orientation.

On the advice of his friend Georg Muche, Citroen resumed his study of painting and drawing and enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922. Muche had been hired by the institute’s founder, Walter Gropius, and was one of its youngest teachers. Citroen’s most important instructors at the Bauhaus were Johannes Itten, who provided the basic introductory course (‘Vorkurs’), and Wassily Kandinsky. Itten was a proponent of personal expression, who, as a reform idealist, was striving for the liberation of the individual. Citroen was most taken with the emphasis that Itten placed on materials­—allowing a drawing to emerge from the nature of the material—and his investigation of the contrast between light and dark in compositions. Itten also included the compositions of old masters in his analyses. Exercises with theoretical and intuitive contrasts in colour and material, the study of rhythm and ‘automatic drawing’ were also part of the curriculum. With Kandinsky, the study of analysis and synthesis formed the core of the practical and theoretical lessons. These experiences at the Bauhaus would play a role in Citroen’s later views toward art pedagogy and his own theoretical reflections. His own artistic work­—despite its essentially naturalistic character—would also be somewhat expressionistically coloured by this influence. The insights Citroen acquired into the structures of surface and form, as well as light and dark contrasts, would prove to be important for his photography.

In December 1924, the graphic artist Otto Umbehr (called ‘Umbo’ for short) stayed for two weeks at Citroen’s home. Both men had known each other from the Bauhaus. At that moment seeing no future in graphic art, Umbo was trying to ascertain precisely where his talents lay. During this stay, he showed Citroen how his photo camera worked. Under Umbo’s watchful eye, Citroen took his first shots. The medium as yet failed to inspire him enough to purchase a camera of his own. A serious interest in photography was not to emerge until 1929, when spending time in Paris at the invitation of Marianne Breslauer, a friend of Citroen’s back in Berlin. In this period, Breslauer was studying photography with Man Ray. Using Breslauer’s camera and under her instruction, Citroen became acquainted with photography’s artistic potential. Through Breslauer, he also came into contact with Werner Rohde, an artist/photographer from Bremen, Germany, who was living in Paris temporarily. Citroen and Rohde became good friends and frequently ventured out together on ‘photo hunts’. In the same year (1929), Citroen received his first (6x9cm) camera as a wedding gift from his in-laws.

Initially, Citroen photographed primarily within his own circle of family members. With the birth of his daughter, Paulien, in 1930, he began using the camera on a regular basis to record her life’s progress. His wife Lientje also posed frequently for her husband. The decision to start taking on portrait commissions from others—frequently those in his immediate surroundings—was motivated by economic considerations present at the time. Citroen placed no advertisements, nor did he open a studio: he simply worked from his home. His list of clientele began to expand, most likely through recommendations made via word-of-mouth. No trace of any bookkeeping exists, which makes it difficult to distinguish between his commissioned portraits and photos of individuals posing as models at Citroen’s personal request. Among his ‘clients’ and ‘models’ were family members, friends, German emigrants, the cleaning lady, the cook, school friends of Paulien’s, neighbours, and artist friends.

Around 1930, Citroen started taking portrait shots of Dutch artists in accordance with his plans to produce a book on Dutch contemporary painting. The plan enjoyed the support of his brother-in-law, the painter Jacob Bendien, as well as that of Rein and Ann Harrenstein-Schräder, who advised and assisted Citroen with the selection of the artists. Palet. Een boek gewijd aan de hedendaagsche Nederlandsche schilderkunst (‘Pallet. A Book Devoted to Contemporary Dutch Painting) was published in 1931 by the Amsterdam publishing house De Spieghel. In his book, Citroen not only included reproductions of work by his chosen artists, but also contributions made by the artists themselves, submitted in the form of commentary, a poem, or a brief biographical description. A photographed, drawn, or painted portrait of every artist was also included. Citroen himself shot all the photographed portraits, depicting Raoul Hynckes, Wim Oepts, Kor Postma, Charles Roelofsz, Valentijn Edgar van Uytvanck, Johan J. Voskuil, and Piet van Wijngaerd. With the exception of Van Uytvanck’s portrait, all of the negatives for the portraits cited here are still to be found in Citroen’s archive, as well as the negative of Jacob Bendien’s portrait, though this is likely to be a reproduction. The painters selected for Pallet, however, were not the only artists who posed for Citroen’s camera. He also took portrait photos of the following people: the dancers Estella Reed and Chaja Goldstein; the cabaret actress Erika Mann; the sculptors John Rädecker and Hildo Krop; the architect Gerrit Rietveld; the photographers Marianne Breslauer, Otto Umbehr, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; the painters Else Berg, Thijs Rinsema, and Carel Willink; as well as other less renowned artists.

Paul Citroen photographed his daughter Paulien on a highly frequent basis well into her teens. These ‘photo sessions’ with his daughter often resulted in a series. Sometimes she appeared not the least bit aware of the camera’s presence; at other times, she posed according to her father’s instructions. Citroen’s interest in photographing his daughter was undoubtedly linked to his role as a father. Yet this also provided him with an opportunity to practice making children’s portraits, which he regularly did to make a living. Citroen knew Paulien’s character and her physical expression better than any other child. In part because she had grown accustomed to posing in front of her father’s camera, her portraits are among the most interesting children’s portraits in his oeuvre. One photographed portrait that Citroen made of his daughter was featured in a printed advertisement promoting biscuit rusks for the Dutch company Verkade, which appeared as well in the Algemeen Handelsblad of 8 December 1933. Paulien also served as an inspiration for a number of Citroen’s photographer friends. Eva Besnyö, Erwin Blumenfeld, as well as Paul Guermonprez and Hajo Rose of the studio Co-op 2, photographed her as a child. The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf featured a photo of Citroen in its 24 July 1934 issue, in which Eva Besnyö can be seen photographing Paulien for a series of articles on career choices under the heading: ‘Fotografie, een beroep voor de vrouw’ (‘Photography, a Profession for Women’). Several of the photographs taken were also used with printed matter. One example is a montage of a landscape drawing and a portrait made by Guermonprez for the cover of the book Het dodende licht (‘The Killing Light’), by W.A. Prestre. Another Guermonprez shot of Paulien, photographed in connection with Liberty Furniture, was used in 1936 with printed matter for the Metz & Co. department store in Amsterdam (an annotation accompanying this printed matter in Citroen’s photo album: ‘A.B.C. No. 2 Oct. 36’). A portrait of Paulien taken by Eva Besnyö was used in a 1935 montage made by Hajo Rose for a cookie factory. In 1937, Wim Brusse used a shot of Paulien taken by Co-op 2 for printed advertising in schoolbooks published by W.L. & J. Brusse N.V. in Rotterdam.

Citroen was not the least interested in acquiring a technical knowledge of photography. He typically relied on a 6×9 camera, with the rest left to his intuition. His own words on this topic are very enlightening, taken from Retrospektive Fotografie (‘Retrospective Photography’, a German photography magazine) and reproduced in Dutch in a catalogue of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague: ‘Taking photographs? (…) of course: you take a camera, look through the viewfinder and push the button. Well, you also have to adjust the settings a little, apply a few tricks here and there. Distance, lighting and a couple of other things—no, I’ve never had a photometer—do you know what that is? If you use a camera for a couple of months, a couple of years, then you know exactly how it works, then you don’t need any of that other stuff, all of that technical pretence… The problem is, in fact, that I’m not interested in technique—You think that you can see that just by looking at my photos? ­—Of course you can see it—Yes, I do indeed admire those technicians (because I understand so little of it), but to be honest, I don’t like them. They’re always wanting to try everything out, as soon as something new comes out on the market, they want the newest of what’s out there. But I was satisfied with my good old [camera]. It had become so familiar, we understood each other very well (I don’t always have to have a new wife). What one’s used to, don’t you agree, that’s it. You’ve got to be one with your, yes, with your good old little box [camera]. More technique? Everyone should decide that for themselves, I’ve got enough with what I have.’ Naturally, this was just reasoning on Citroen’s part in order to play down his own technical shortcomings—his negatives sometimes show lens glare and are rarely perfectly veiled. At the same time, however, his words convey the notion that vision was more important for him than technique. This was perhaps because, in Citroen’s view, a degree of spontaneity was lost when too much emphasis was placed on the mastery of technique.

Citroen had his glass and nitrate negatives developed—and usually also printed—by a variety of photo dealers. The sleeves in which he stored his negatives were from businesses such as Capi and Kodak, both on the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam; Siewers, a photokino (German: ‘photo cinema’) dealer and Leica specialist in Hilversum; and a number of photo stores in the town of Wassenaar. The photographer, Norbert Buchsbaum, contends that Citroen never had his own darkroom. Instead, he is likely to have had photo enlargements made by photographers in his circle of friends, perhaps occasionally making use of their darkrooms as well. When Citroen did do his own developing and printing at home, this occurred in the bathroom.

Citroen’s portrait photography differs from the production of other professional portrait photographers in his day. He was inspired by the modern vision of photography: looking at regular things in a new way. Design elements in his oeuvre, such as the diagonal angle of view, strong light and dark contrast, motion blur, and close-ups were intentionally introduced on a regular basis. His Bauhaus background gave him the daring to experiment unabashedly with a new medium like photography. Citroen’s discussions with Werner Rohde concerning Moholy-Nagy’s Bauhaus book from 1925, Malerei Fotografie Film (‘Painting Photography Film’), made him more aware of the artistic expression that could be achieved with photography. Citroen had no problem, however, diverging from the ‘rules’ of the New Photography, which—though initially introduced by Moholy-Nagy— had since become ‘dogmatised’ by later adepts. For Citroen, taboos against practices such as making crops of negatives to be used for enlargements were non-existent. Similarly, Piet Zwart’s ‘strijd op het mat glas’ (‘dispute on the ground glass screen’) had virtually escaped his notice.

The point of focus in Citroen’s portraits is typically in front of the face, on the arm or lapel. When combined with a wider lens aperture, the result is a blurred portrait. Citroen’s diversion from the standard approach—the academy’s stance was to focus on the eyes—should probably not be interpreted as a poor shot, but rather as an intentional visual tool. Blurred shots could be readily combined with the soft photo papers on which Citroen relied. Moreover, he enjoyed the somewhat romantic mood that blur gave these photos. Citroen also had an eye for unusual and humorous details, implemented to remove an everyday subject from its regular context. Isolated from its surroundings, a subject takes on a surreal atmosphere. Citroen’s famous photo of an unsightly, old-fashioned and broken-down toilet in the modern Rietveld-Schröder House in Utrecht serves as a well-known example. A window mannequin belongs to this same genre as well. In spite of his notoriety and insight regarding the design potential of photography, Paul Citroen’s photographic oeuvre is a mixture of a modern vision and a more traditional naturalism. This combination of contrasting elements in his work influenced him throughout much of his life, ever since he had come into contact with avant-garde art (after having had a traditional drawing education) via Herwarth Walden in 1914.

A major part of Citroen’s portraits may be characterised as amateur work. He typically photographed people in circumstances as they occurred, without putting a great deal of energy into technically optimum conditions for lighting, composition, and background. A professional photographer is likely to have paid more attention to the colour of the clothing, to distracting objects in the space where the photos were being taken, and a more favourable lighting. Where Citroen did devote significant attention—and that is what makes his portrait work interesting—was his model’s pose and facial expression. Citroen managed to infallibly recognise and capture precisely the individual characteristics of his subjects. More often than not, this was accompanied by a remarkable feeling for humour and atmosphere.

Citroen’s portrait shots of ordinary people (neighbours, friends, family members, unknown clients, etc.) can sometimes be described as rather mundane. Yet account must be taken of the fact that he could still have succeeded at producing (or having someone else produce) captivating photos in the darkroom by means of cropping and printing. Of the scarce original prints that have been preserved, a number attest to this.

At first glance, Citroen’s photographed portraits have little in common with his drawn and painted portraits. At their foundation, however, lies a shared vision that stems from his Bauhaus training: thinking based on the material and a marked interest in light and dark contrasts. In all of these disciplines, Citroen’s ability to emphasise his models’ individual characteristics is likewise expressed in the same manner.

From 1 to 30 November 1932, thirty of Paul Citroen’s photos were exhibited at the Kunstkelder (‘Art Cellar’) at Spui 13 in Amsterdam. The reactions in the press were rather mixed. In Focus, Adriaan Boer had virtually nothing good to say about Citroen’s work, discerning above all technical mistakes, subjects that failed to excite him, and large, unsympathetically photographed female heads. Boer’s view was that the exhibited work was immature, advising Citroen to first devote serious effort to the study of photography for a period of approximately three years. In that case, he would likely prove to be a good photographer. The critiques in the other photography magazines were pretty much in line with Boer’s findings. The opinions presented in the newspapers Algemeen Handelsblad and De Telegraaf, however, were more positive. The critics of these papers also found the photos of still lifes and interiors to be of little interest, but instead emphasised the beauty that could be observed, referring specifically to the portraits: ‘ (…) posessing great beauty and psychological depth (…)’, stated J.W.F. Werumeus Buning in his review for De Telegraaf. And in reference to a child’s photo, he wrote ecstatically: ‘There is a photo here of a sleeping child, so beautiful in the lull of slumber, that one starts speaking quietly so as to not to awaken it.’

Paul Citroen’s negatives archive comprises more than 1,400 negatives. A number of these are in relatively poor condition due to the emulsion’s deterioration. Most of the negatives were made in the format 6×9 cm. Some have a different format: 11.5×7 cm. When comparing the negatives archive with the photo albums compiled by Citroen himself from the 1930s to the ’50s, it becomes apparent that negatives for some of the photos are no longer extant. Citroen’s archive also includes a number of shots taken by the photographer John Fernhout, as well as shots made by Citroen and Fernhout together. Fernhout often stayed with the Citroen family after his mother, Charley Toorop, moved to Paris in 1930.

Adjacent to images in his photo albums that were not his own, Citroen recorded the name of the person who took the shot. These photo albums therefore serve as an important source of information for documenting the archive’s contents. The organisation of Citroen’s negatives archive is relevant to the attribution of the original photos once held in his possession. One example concerns the portrait of an anonymous young woman—the first image appearing in this monograph—that Citroen donated to the Leiden University Print Room, presenting it as a photo taken by his friend Otto Umbehr. The accuracy of this description, however, was later drawn into question, with the portrait instead appearing to have been made by Citroen himself. A negative of this portrait is indeed found in his negatives archive, together with other shots of the same model. An attribution to Citroen is therefore plausible.

Following the foundation of the Nieuwe Kunstschool (‘New Art School’) in 1933, the economic necessity of having to take photos as a means to make extra money subsided. Citroen now devoted himself entirely to his ‘Bauhaüschen’ (‘little Bauhaus’), as he often referred to the school. After also accepting a teaching position at the KABK (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘Royal Academy of Art’) in The Hague in 1935, Citroen ceased his activity as a professional photographer, though he continued to take photos within the circle of his immediate family.

Photography was a phase in Paul Citroen’s life. Because of his artistic training, photographic design required little effort. In his view, however, photography was a fundamentally different field of work when compared to painting and drawing. Undoubtedly, Citroen’s lack of solid technical skills is one explanation why he never became a fanatic photographer. He was such a devout craftsman as a drawing artist and a painter that he is certain to have missed this activity when working with photography. Citroen’s fresh take on a variety of subjects, in no way enslaved by any adherence to traditional conventions in photography, and his personal daring were nevertheless qualities that made him an exceptional photographer. Citroen’s small oeuvre, spanning a relatively brief period of time, may be considered a pearl on the crown of Dutch photography.


(selectie: alleen documenten die betrekking hebben op het fotografisch oeuvre van Paul Citroen en de belangrijkste publicaties m.b.t. zijn fotocollages zijn opgenomen. Zie voor overige literatuur: Herbert van Rheeden, Monique Feenstra en Bettina Rijkschroeff, Paul Citroen. Kunstenaar docent verzamelaar, Zwolle/Heino/Wijhe (Waanders/Hannema-de Stuers Fundatie) 1994 en de daarin opgenomen bibliografie)

Primary bibliography

Paul Citroen (samenstelling), Palet. Een boek gewijd aan de hedendaagsche Nederlandsche schilderkunst, Amsterdam (De Spieghel) 1931 (met foto’s) (idem: Utrecht (Reflex) 1981, met nieuwe inleiding door Paul Citroen).

Paul Citroen, Wie ich Thomas Mann zeichnete, in Bulletin Museum Boymans 8 (1957) 1, p. 22-39.

Paul Citroen: 10 photographs (portfolio), Keulen (Galerie Rudolf Kicken) 1979.


images in:

L. Moholy-Nagy, Malerei Fotografie Film, München (Albert Langen Verlag) 1925, p. 95-97 (serie: Bauhaus Bücher 8).

Photofreund Jahrbuch 1926/27, p. 67.

Das Deutsche Lichtbild. Jahresschau 1927, afb. 123.

Algemeen Handelsblad 8 december 1933.

De Telegraaf 24 juli 1934.

Nillmijmeringen februari/maart 1939.

Kalender Nillmij 1941, Den Haag (Nillmij) 1940, januari.

Claude Magelhaes, Nederlandse fotografie. De eerste 100 jaar, Utrecht/Antwerpen (Bruna & Zoon) 1969, afb. 100.

Chroniques de l’art vivant maart/april 1975, omslag.

Catalogus tent. Photographie 1839/1979, Keulen (Galerie Rudolf Kicken) 1979, afb. 80-82 (idem: Hasselt (Provinciaal Begijnhof) 1980).

Roswitha Fricke (red.), Bauhaus. Fotografie, z.p. (Marzona) 1982, p. 94, 249 (afb. 224), 267 (afb. 268).

du. Die Art Magazine (1982) 11, p. 58.

Kunstschrift 26 (maart/april 1982) 2, omslag.

Erika Billeter (samenstelling), L’autoportrait a 1’age de la photographie: Peintres et photographes en dialogue avec leur propre image/Das Selbstportrait im Zeitalter der Photographie: Maler und Photographen im Dialog mit sich selbst, Lausanne (Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts) 1985, afb. 71, 73, 373, 435d.

Michael Sorkin, Exquisite corpse. Writing on buildings, Londen/New York (Verso) 1991, omslag.

H. Marsman, Remco Campert en Robert Anker, Stadsgedichten, Leiden (Plantage/G & S) 1992, omslag.

Matthew Teitelbaum (ed.), Montage and Modern Life 1919-1942, Cambridge etc./Boston (The MIT Press/The Institute of Contemporary Art) 1992, p. 32-33.

Susan Yelavich, The Edge of the Millennium. An International Critique of Architecture, Urban Planning, Product and Communication Design, New York (Whitney Library of Design) 1993, p. 80.

Catalogus tent. George Grosz: Berlin-New York, Berlijn (Nationalgalerie/Ars Nicolai) 1994, p. 95,97.

Secundaire bibliography

Teo de Witte, Een boek van schilders. “Palet”, in De Morgen 18 november 1931.

J.W.F. Werumeus Buning, Foto’s door Paul Citroen. In den kunstkelder op het Spui. Schoonheid, harmonie en stilte, in De Telegraaf 2 november 1932.

d. G., Foto’s van Paul Citroen, in Algemeen Handelsblad 3 november 1932.

v.d. T., Foto’s van Paul Citroen in den Kunstkelder Amsterdam, in De Groene Amsterdammer 4 november 1932.

A.B. (= Adriaan Boer), Foto’s Paul Citroen in den Kunstkelder, in Focus 19 (12 november 1932) 23, p. 676-677.

Auteur onbekend, Foto’s Paul Citroen in den “Kunstkelder” te Amsterdam, in Bedrijfsfotografie 14 (18 november 1932) 23, p. 432-433.

Auteur onbekend, Werkers van den modernen tijd, in Lux-De Camera 43 (24 december 1932) 26, p. 401-402.

Jan Beerends, Kinderen worden gefotografeerd, in Onze Kinderen. Tijdschrift voor R.K. Ouders en Opvoeders 16 (oktober 1934) 10, p. 302-309 (met foto’s).

Auteur onbekend, Een nieuwe muze, …met drie beenen en één oog. De tentoonstelling “Foto ’37” in het Stedelijk Museum te Amsterdam, in Het Vaderland 31 juli 1937.

Jan Wessendorp, Gesprek met Paul Citroen kunstenaar/fotograaf, in Vakfotografie (1965) 2, p. 25-26.

Herta Wescher, Die Collage. Geschichte eines künstlerischen Ausdrucksmittels, Keulen (M. DuMont Schaubert) 1968, p. 47, 149-150, 265, 284, 296, afb. 120.

Catalogus tent. 50 Jaar Bauhaus, Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum) 1968, p. 103, 344.

Catalogus tent. Die Fotomontage. Geschichte und Wesen einer Kunstform, Ingolstadt 1969, ongepag., afb. 44.

Catalogus tent. De portrettist Paul Citroen als verzamelaar, Leiden (Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal) 1968.

Van Deren Coke, The Painter and the Photograph. From Delacoix to Warhol, Albuquerque (University of New Mexico Press) revised and enlarged ed. 1972, p. 255-257.

Catalogus tent. Medium Fotografie. Fotoarbeiten bildender Künstler von 1910 bis 1973, Leverkussen (Stadtisches Museum. Schloss Morsbroich) 1973, p. 34-35.

Betty van Garrel, Portrettist Paul Citroen. ‘Kunst kan het leed in de wereld verzachten’, in Haagse Post 60 (10 maart 1973) 10, omslag, p. 56-59, 61, 63.

Kurt Löb (samenstelling), Paul Citroen en het Bauhaus, Utrecht/Antwerpen (Bruna & Zoon) 1974.

W. Rotzler, Photographie als künstlerisches Experiment. Von Fox Talbot zu Moholy-Nagy, Lucerne und Frankfurt/M (C.J. Bucher) 1974, p. 27, 89, aft. 83 (Serie: Bibliothek der Photografie, Band 5).

Ralph Prins, Fotokunst. Een gesprek van Ralph Prins met Paul Citroen over fotografie, in Foto 29 (januari 1974) 1, p. 38-43.

Dawn Ades, Photomontage, Londen (Thames and Hudson) 1976, p. 17-18, afb. 56.

Catalogus tent. Dada in Europa. Werke und Dokumente, Frankfurt am Main (Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut) 1977, p. 3/185, 3/202, 4.4.

Petr Tausk, Die Geschichte der Fotografie im 20. Jahrhundert, Keulen (DuMont) 1977, p. 91-92, 99.

Catalogus tent. Tendenzen der zwanziger Jahre, Berlijn (Neue Nationalgalerie der Akademie der Künste/Grossen Orangerie des Schlosses Charlottenburg) 1977, p. 3/33, 3/185, 3/202, B/12.

Auteur onbekend, Paul Citroen geportretteerd. Foto’s van John Hakkaart, in Foto 32 (februari 1977) 2, p. 58-59.

Dawn Ades, Dada and Surrealism reviewed [catalogus], Londen (Arts Council of Great Britain) 1978, p. 91.

R. Fricke (red.), Retrospektive Fotografie. Paul Citroen, Bielefeld/Düsseldorf (Marzona) 1978 (met foto’s) (idem: Zutphen (De Walburg Pers)).

David Mellor (ed.), Germany. The new Photography 1927-33, Londen (Arts Council of Great Britain) 1978, p. 77.

Jörg Kirchbaum, Paul Citroen, in Fotografie [Duitse uitg.] (1978) 6, p. 52.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf, Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Amsterdam (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p. 77, 79.

Ed Wingen, Paul Citroen als fotograaf. “Ik was tevreden met mijn goeie ouwe box. We begrepen elkaar heel goed”, in De Telegraaf 15 juli 1978.

Catalogus tent. Umbo. Photographien 1925-1933, Hannover (Spectrum Photogalerie) 1979, p. 13, 28-29.

Flip Bool en Kees Broos (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1920-1940, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1979, p. 70-71, 78-79, 81, 89, 129, 137, 142, 147.

E. John Bullard (voorwoord), Diverse images. Photographs from the New Orleans Museum of Art, New York (Amphoto) 1979, p. 77, 100, 104.

Catalogus tent. Dada. Photographie und Photocollage, Hannover (Kestner-Gesellschaft) 1979, p. 35, 85-95, 318 (met foto’s).

Catalogus tent. Paul Citroen Fotograaf. Foto’s uit de jaren 1929-1935, Den Haag (Haags Gemeentemuseum) 1979 (met foto’s).

Joke Hofkamp en Evert van Uitert, De Nieuwe Kunstschool (1933-1943), in Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 1979, deel 30, Haarlem (Fibula-Van Dishoeck) 1980, p. 233-300.

Peter Weiermair, Photographie als kunst 1879-1979,Innsbruck (Innsbrucker Allerheiligenpresse) 1979, p. 288-289.

Karl Steinorth, Photographen der 20er Jahre, München (Laterna Magica) z.j. (ca. 1979), p. 7, 85.

Auteur onbekend, Paul Citroen, in Uit [een gezamenlijke uitgave van de Haagsche Courant en dagblad Het Binnenhof] 17-27 december 1981, p. 15.

Van Deren Coke, Avantgarde photography in Germany 1919-1939, München (Schirmer/Mosel) 1982, p. 41-42, 47, 54-55, afb. 19 (idem: New York (Pantheon Books) 1982).

Kathinka Dittrich, Paul Blom en Flip Bool (red.), Berlijn-Amsterdam 1920-1940. Wisselwerkingen, Amsterdam (Querido) 1982, p. 171, 180, 185, 238, 241, 243, 250, 265-267, 276, 285, 304, 306, 334-336.

Paolo Melis, Learning from Metropolis, in Domus (april 1982) 627, p. 28-31.

Bibeb, Paul Citroen: ‘Wie niet zuchten kan, kan niet tekenen’, in Vrij Nederland 43 (24 juli 1982) 29, p. 7-8.

Willem K. Coumans, Bauhaus fotografie in SM op smalle basis, in Foto 37 (oktober 1982) 10, p. 36-37.

Wulf Herzogenrath (samenstelling), Bauhausfotografïe, Stuttgart (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) 1983, p. 14, 75-76, 82, 86, 99 (met foto’s).

Catalogus tent. Zien en gezien worden. Fotografische zelfbespiegeling in Nederland van ca. 1840 tot heden, Nijmegen (Nijmeegs Museum ‘Commanderie van Sint-Jan’) 1983, p. 25, 83.

Auteur onbekend, De hardnekkigheid van een grap, in Kunstbeeld mei 1983, p. 44.

Edouard Jaguer, Surrealistische Photographie. Zwischen Traum und Wirklichkeit, Keulen (DuMont) 1984, p. 25-27, 50, 97.

Michel Frizot (inl.), Photomontages. Photographie experimentale de 1’entredeux-guerres, Parijs (Centre National de la Photographie) 1987, ongepag., afb. 7-8 (serie: Photo Poches 31).

Pien Ris, Paul Citroen, in Ingeborg Leijerzapf e.a., Roots + Turns. 20th Century photography in The Netherlands, Den Haag (SDU Publishers) 1988, p. 30-35, 169 (met foto’s).

A. de Jong-Vermeulen, Paul Citroen, in Colin Naylor (ed.), Contemporary Photographers, Chicago/Londen (St. James Press) 1988, p. 176-178.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf, Spiegelreflecties in de fotografie, in Nico J. Brederoo e.a. (samenstelling), Oog in oog met de spiegel, Amsterdam (Aramith) 1988, p. 164-178 (idem Engelse versie: Mirrored reflections in photography, in Photoresearcher (juni 1991) 2, omslag, p. 4-11).

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf e.a. (tekst), Het beslissende beeld. Hoogtepunten uit de Nederlandse fotografie van de 20e eeuw, Amsterdam (BIS) 1991, p. 109, 186-187.

Nicole Roepers, Unieke portrettencollectie Paul Citroen, in Leidsch Dagblad 27 november 1991.

Willem Ellenbroek, Idealistisch eiland gevangen tussen crisistijd en oorlog, in de Volkskrant 17 oktober 1992.

Koosje Sierman, ‘Bauhausler’ in Amsterdam. Overtuigend portret van kwetsbare Nieuwe Kunstschool, in NRC Handelsblad 4 november 1992.

Catalogus tent. Paul Citroen & Erwin Blumenfeld 1919-1939, Londen (The Photographers’ Gallery) 1993 (met foto’s).

Mattie Boom, Apologie van de fotografie. Prof.Dr. H. van de Waals essentiële rol in de vorming van Nederlands eerste publieke foto-collectie in het Prentenkabinet (1953-1972), in Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 9 (1994), p. 323-344.

Catalogus tent. La ville, art et architecture en Europe 1870-1993, Parijs (Centre George Pompidou) 1994, omslag, p. 258-259.

Herbert van Rheeden, Monique Feenstra en Bettina Rijkschroeff, Paul Citroen. Kunstenaar docent verzamelaar, Zwolle/Heino/Wijhe (Waanders/Hannema-de Stuers Fundatie) 1994.

Jean-Louis Cohen. Scènes of the World to Come. European Architecture and the American Challenge 1893-1960, Parijs (Flammerion) 1995, p. 117, 120.

Herbert Molderings, Umbo, Otto Umbehr 1902-1980, Düsseldorf (Richter) 1995.

Rolf H. Krauss, Herbert Molderings über Umbo, in DGPh Intern. Informationen und Kommentare von Mitgliedern für Mitgliedern der DGPh (1996) 2, p. 18-21.


Arti et Amicitiae.

Pulchri Studio.

BKVK, vanaf 1935.

Haagse Kunstkring, erelid vanaf 1978.


1950 Jacob Maris Prijs voor schilderkunst.

1953 Tweede prijs van de Jacob Hartog Prijs.


1923 (g) Weimar, Bauhaus (Kunstschulstrasse), Ausstellung des Staatlichen Bauhauses.

1932 (e) Amsterdam, Kunstkelder.

1934 (e) Amersfoort, Toonzaal Sierkunst, [schilderijen, tekeningen en foto’s].

1935 (e) Amsterdam, Kunstkelder, [glasschilderijen, etsen, tekeningen en foto’s].

1935 (g) Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kunstschool, [modern schilderwerk, grafiek, reclame en foto’s].

1937 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, foto ’37.

1948 (g) New York, Museum of Modern Art, [collagetentoonstelling]

1956 (g) Den Haag, Haags Gemeentemuseum.

1962 (g) Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Samen op de kiek.

1964 (g) Albuquerque, University of New Mexico, The Painter and the Photograph. Front Delacroix to Warhol.

1968/1969 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, 50 Jaar Bauhaus.

1968/1969 (e) Leiden, Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, De portrettist Paul Citroen als verzamelaar.

1969 (g) Ingolstadt, Stadttheater, Die Fotomontage (rondreizende tentoonstelling).

1969 (g) ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Noord-Brabants Museum, Nederlandse fotografie. De eerste honderd jaar (rondreizende tentoonstelling).

1973 (g) Leverkussen, Stadtisches Museum. Schloss Morsbroich, Medium Fotografie. Fotoarbeiten bildender Künstler von 1910 bis 1973.

1977/1978 (g) Frankfurt am Main, Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Dada in Europa. Werke und Dokumente.

1978 (g) Londen, Hayword Gallery, Dada and Surrealism reviewed.

1979 (e) Bocholt, Galerie im Rathaus, Paul Citroen Fotos 1929-1935.

1979 (e) Den Haag, Haags Gemeentemuseum, Paul Citroen, fotograaf. Foto’s uit de jaren 1929-1935 (rondreizende tentoonstelling).

1979 (g) Hannover, Dada. Photographie und Photocollage.

1979 (g) Innsbruck, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Photographie als Kunst 1879-1979 Kunst als Photographie 1849-1979 (rondreizende tentoonstelling).

1979 (g) Keulen, Galerie Rudolf Kicken, (Paul Citroen en Umbo).

1979 (g) Keulen, Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Photographie 1839-1979.

1979/1980 (g) Den Haag, Haags Gemeentemuseum, foto 20-40.

1980 (g) Hasselt, Provinciaal Begijnhof, Photographie 1839-1979.

1980 (g) San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Avant-Garde Photography in Germany 1919-39 (rondreizende tentoonstelling).

1980/1981 (e) Amsterdam, Nederlands Theater Instituut, Paul Citroen Foto ‘s: Toneelportretten.

1980/1981 (g) Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart. Kunstgebaude am Schlossplatz, Van Gogh bis Cobra. Holländische Malerei von 1880 bis 1950.

1981 (g) Genève, Canon Photo Gallery, (Paul Citroen en Erwin Blumenfeld).

1981 (e) Den Haag, Galerie Artline, [tekeningen en foto’s].

1981 (g) San Francisco, Fraenkel Gallery, Germany: The New Vision.

1982 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Bauhaus Photographien.

1982 (e) Berlijn, Bauhaus-Archiv, Paul Citroen Fotografien 1929-1935.

1983 (g) Nijmegen, Nijmeegs Museum ‘Commanderie van Sint-Jan’, Zien en gezien worden. Fotografische zelfbespiegeling in Nederland van ca. 1840 tot heden.

1983 (g) Stuttgart, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Bauhausfotografie.

1985 (g) Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, L’autoportrait a l’age de la photographie: Peintres et photographes en dialogue avec leur propre image.

1985 (g) Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Das Selbstportrait im Zeitalter der Photographie: Maler und Photographen im Dialog mit sich selbst.

1986 (e) Sittard, Kritzraedthuis, Paul Citroen 1896-1983. Een keuze uit zijn werk. Schilderijen, tekeningen, foto’s.

1987 (g) Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Ich und die Stadt.

1987 (g) Paddington (Australië), Stadia Graphics Gallery, Holland Dada (reizende tentoonstelling).

1988 (g) Houston, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, Roots + Turns. 20th Century photography in The Netherlands.

1988 (g) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Roots + Turns. Traditie en vernieuwing van de fotografie in Nederland vanaf 1900.

1991 (g) Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, Het beslissende beeld. Hoogtepunten uit de Nederlandse fotografie van de 20e eeuw (Collectie Stichting Dunhill Dutch Photography).

1991 (g) Berlijn, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin heute und morgen. Projekte für das neue Berlin.

1991 (e) Wassenaar, Galerie Bianca en Raadhuis De Paauw, Paul Citroen 1896-1983.

1992 (g) Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Montage and Modern Life 1919-1942.

1992 (g) Sittard, Kritzraedthuis, Bauhausfotografie.

1993 (g) Londen, The Photographers’ Gallery, Paul Citroen & Erwin Blumenfeld 1919-1939.

1994 (e) Heino/Wijhe, Hannema-de Stuers Fundatie. Kasteel Het Nijenhuis, Paul Citroen. Kunstenaar docent verzamelaar.

1994 (g) Parijs, La Grande Galerie du Centre Georges Pompidou, La ville, art et architecture en Europe.

1994/1995 (g) Berlijn, Neue Nationalgalerie, George Grosz: Berlin-New York.

1995 (g) Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 100 jahre-100 Bilder.

Television Programs

1981 (5 november) Paul Citroen, tv-portret (AVRO).


Amsterdam, mevr. P.C.L. Bruggeman-Citroen.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentiebestand.

Wassenaar, mevr. C. Citroen-Frisch.


Amsterdam, Theater Instituut Nederland

Berlijn, Galerie Berinson.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit Leiden.

Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

New Orleans, New Orleans Museum of Art.