Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, His Two Wives, and the War That Made Them One


"Debra Dean puts the stitches in the rich tapestry that was Jan Yoors’s life, surely one of the most remarkable artistic stories of the twentieth century. She reveals his incredible life of exploration, adventure, and heroism, as well as his truly unique ménage. I’m hugely impressed with her research and writing—and green with envy that she found such a fascinating subject to write about.”  Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lillies

Hidden Tapestry reveals the unforgettable story of Flemish American artist Jan Yoors—childhood vagabond, wartime resistance fighter, and urban bohemian. At the peak of his fame in the 1970s, Yoors’s photographs and vast tapestries inspired a dedicated following in his adopted Manhattan. Though his intimate friends guessed the rough outline of his colorful life, Hidden Tapestry is first to detail his astonishing secrets. 

At twelve, Jan’s life took an extraordinary and unexpected turn when he wandered into a Roma encampment on the outskirts of his native Antwerp just as the place was being raided. Rather than return home, Jan fled with the Roma and continued to live on-and-off with them and with his own family for several years. As an adult in German-occupied France, Yoors joined the Resistance. Defying repeated arrests and torture by the Gestapo, he worked first as a saboteur and later escorted Allied soldiers trapped behind German lines across the Pyrenees to freedom.

After the war, he married childhood friend Annabert van Wettum and embarked on his career as an artist. When a friend of Annabert’s, Marianne Citroen, modeled for Yoors, Hidden Tapestry reveals how the two began an affair, which led the three to form a polygamous  family that would last for the rest of their lives. Moving to New York, the trio became part of the bohemian life of Greenwich Village in the 1950s.

A luminous and inspiring account of resilience, resourcefulness, and love.

Praise for Hidden Tapestry

"In Hidden Tapestry, Debra Dean dives into the artist’s singular backstory and the equally compelling stories of his wives, Annabert van Wettum and Marianne Citroen. This is a well-researched, well-written, and unusual biography. . . There’s a fascinating story here, and Dean tells it well." —Foreword Magazine

“It’s rare when an extraordinary artist wins a biographer of equal quality. As someone who admired Jan Yoors greatly and once spent a few days in his unusual household, I’m delighted to see this story told with grace, with careful research, and with such compassion for the women who were an invisible part of his work.” —Adam Hochschild, author of Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son, and King Leopold's Ghost

“Debra Dean has written that unique book that is scholarly, historically important... full of vibrant and fascinating characters, beautifully written, and somehow—almost improbably—true.”   Ann Hood, author of The Book That Matters Most and The Italian Wife

"Hidden Tapestry by Debra Dean is a tour-de-force tapestry of intertwined lives, set against a background of modern art, war, and polymorphous polygamy." — Dan Wakefield, author of Going All The Way and New York In The Fifties