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Olivier de Serres


Emmanuelle Gaillard


Le Faune ťditeur,
19, avenue Diderot,
92330 Sceaux





26 x 25.5 cm
288 pages
328 photographs


€49 (France)







The press release for this book states:

In 1933, Andrť CitroŽn, motivated by the passion to keep his company at the forefront of progress, decided to create an extremely innovative medium-sized car: it will be the first production car with front wheel drive. The "Traction" will lift the reputation of the brand to the heights. Between 1934 and 1957, more than seven hundred thousand were built and, in all its variations it became the vehicle of several generations of Frenchmen.

In 2017, the Traction Avant CitroŽn celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of the end of its production. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate this timeless car, through a beautiful album of more than seventy models, commented on and photographed in their finest details.

Both the traction enthusiast and simple automobile fan will be able to abandon himself to the contemplation of this car which is now part of France’s national heritage.


This book is innovative in more ways than one! It renews the very concept of the automotive book. Entirely illustrated with images of cars from private collections, French and foreign, it allows the reader to discover more than three hundred unique contemporary images, realized exclusively for the book. Cars kept in a pure state of origin, or restored in perfect conformity with their original appearance.

Photographed by Leonard de Serres and Rose Ayliffe, these beautiful photographs, large or detailed, highlight the design of the body, the colours, the sophistication of the upholstery and the finish of the accessories.

A historical introduction by Anne Bony, devoted to the contemporary design of the 1930s, allows the reader to put the birth of the car into its creation context.


The Authors

OLIVIER DE SERRES has been a fan of CitroŽn since his youth. His first book, Le Grand Livre de la Traction, was published in 1984 and was followed by Le Grand Livre de la DS and numerous books on French cabriolets, CitroŽn and Peugeot. A collector of classic French cars, Olivier de Serres himself participates in the restoration of his cars. His method is both that of a researcher, for whom every detail observed has its importance, and also that of an enthusiast sensitive to the aesthetics and life of automobiles. His monographs are now considered reference works.

Taking up photography very early, L…ONARD DE SERRES refined his eyes at the …cole des arts appliquťs de Paris. He now works with state-of-the-art equipment for large companies in the fields of heritage architecture and events. His other passion, the automobile, led him quite naturally to take an interest in the photography of historic cars where his sense of light proved to be an inspiration.

ROSE AYLIFFE is Australian. She works in both her country of origin and France. She was born in Kangaroo Island (South Australia), and it was the beauty of her island that prompted her to become a photographer. After extensive studies in Melbourne, she spent some time in France discovering a different culture. Specialising in portraits, she also developed in France an interest in the artistic photography of vintage cars.

An historian in the design of modern and contemporary objects, from furniture to decorative arts, and always curious about new fields of creation and their anchorage in history, ANNE BONY has written numerous books. She has collaborated with the Editions du Regard since 1982 in several collections: ę Les Annťes Ľ, ę Meubles et dťcors Ľ et ę Esprit du meuble et du design Ľ For Larousse, Flammarion, …ditions Alternatives and Norma, she favours more specific subjects. Her desire to transmit her knowledge guided her towards teaching and conferences for students of the art market and creative schools (IFM, IESA, Camondo, Drouot).

In the eighties, Olivier de Serres’ books were bibles for the CitroŽn enthusiast.  My well-thumbed copies of the two ‘Grands Livres’  (which were well researched but suffered from mainly low quality, monochrome  images) are proof of this.

Therefore, when I received the press release, I hoped that we would see the shortcomings addressed with some really high quality images to accompany de Serres’ text.  I had hoped for revelations as hitherto unknown facts would be revealed and a quick flick through it revealed some beautiful photographs.

I put it aside for a few weeks and then found the time to sit down and read it.

The first eighteen pages comprise a chapter entitled DRUNKENESS,  BITTERNESS, THE STLE OF THE 1930s are written by Anne Bony and as stated above, attempt to place the Traction within its Zeitgeist – sociological, artistic, industrial, architectural, cultural, political.  Unfortunately for the non-French (but French-speaking) reader, this entire chapter seems very pretentious.

The non-French speaker (or reader) can ignore this chapter and gaze at the more than three hundred beautiful photographs that fill the rest of the book.  Those who do understand ‘the language of angels’ might be disappointed with de Serres’ text which is rather lightweight and says little new.  It documents the major changes that occurred in the car’s history but it seems to be driven by the cars available to photograph rather than by a desire to provide a complete history.


The book is edited by EMMANUELLE GAILLARD who is an art historian and former student of the …cole du Louvre, is an author and editor. She was an independent editor from 2002 to 2015 and specialised in the publishing of works of art: monographs, exhibition and museum catalogues. In 2010, she wrote books for the English language market (Thames & Hudson, London and Vendome Press, New York) , 2011) and for the Italian market (Electa Mondadori, Milan, 2010).  Of the four people involved in this book, three can be said to share Emmanuelle Gaillard’s fine arts background and this is very much reflected in the approach the book takes – it  documents the concept of the Traction as a work of art very successfully.  As an in-depth history of the car, it falls short of the mark.  It is what used to be called, somewhat dismissively, a ‘coffee table book’.     

© 2017 Julian Marsh/CitroŽnŽt/images © 2017 Le Faune ťditeur