Need a great summer read? Try Hidden Tapestry

I just finished reading Debra Dean's new book, Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, his two wives, and the war that made them one. I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and the story is far-ranging. It is a biography of Jan Yoor, an artist from Belgium who spent much of his youth with the gypsies and was part of the resistance during World War II. He survived the war, married his childhood sweetheart Annabert, and eventually added her friend Marianne as a second wife to their family. The Yoors moved to America eventually and ran a tapestry studio in Manhattan. Jan designed the work and the women wove it.

Debra Dean deals deftly with stories ranging from childhood adventures to imprisonment during WWII to the family's struggle to remain cohesive and stay financially solvent. From the press release for the book:

At twelve, Yoors’ life took an extraordinary and unexpected turn when, lured by stories of Gypsies, he ran off with a wandering caravan of Roma bohemians and lived with them intermittently for ten years. Later, as an adult in German-occupaied France, Yoors joined the Resistance and persuaded his adoptive Roma family to fight alongside him. 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 pen pal Annabert van Wettum and embarked on his career as a 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 polyamorous 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, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Yoors’ work brought him international acclaim, and in 1959 Art in America magazine nominated him as one of the new talents in the U.S. Considered one of the most important textile artists of the twentieth century, his tapestries were exhibited in prominent museum’s galleries, and public buildings and were sold to major public collections. Yoors’ work is still featured in solo exhibitions worldwide.
— Debra Dean, Press release for Hidden Tapestry

Jan Yoors' website ( is well worth spending some time on. There are some amazing photos of his work and studios as well as links to his writings. 

There is much of interest in this book for contemporary tapestry weavers. The descriptions of the weaving are scarce, but pair your reading with a visit to the website and the story comes together brilliantly. As I read, I could imagine the family working hard to complete these monumental tapestries. Often money was scarce, commissions fell through, or pieces had to be done with inhuman speed.

His wife Marianne and son Kore are still living in the studio in Manhattan to my knowledge. Ask a few New York tapestry weavers and you might find someone who knows them.

Bottom line: read this book. I loved it and I will definitely be spending more time learning about Jan Yoors with special interest in his wives and weavers, Marianne and Annabert.

Attention all Colorado weavers! Debra Dean will be giving a reading and book signing. She'll be at the Book Bar at 4280 Tennyson Street in Denver June 8th at 7 pm. See the promotion below for details. I hope to see you there!

Have you read this book or the books Jan Yoors wrote? Any other experience with this artist? Tell us what you think in the comments.