Here are more than 200 posts on Jan and Cora Gordon; famous travellers, writers, artists and musicians in the first half of the 20th century. They were articulate witnesses to the cultures and events of Europe and the USA from before WW1 to just after WW2. The abundance of primary materials presented here should make this a powerful resource for researchers. For a structured overview of the lives and works of the Gordons, please visit: http://www.pbase.com/hajar/art_of_jan_and_cora_gordon
Jan Gordon and Pablo Picasso
In March 2013 we visited the Picasso Black and White exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The range of styles on show was remarkable, from coolly classical to astonishingly abstract. "Head of a Man" 1908 looks like a Fang Ngil maskfrom Gabon. The several studies for “Guernica” reminded me of a visit to that town in 1994 (studying the nearby geology), looking quiet and peaceful on a sunny day and giving no hint of the Luftwaffe's horrific bombing in 1937.
He wrote, “Picasso – Pablo Ruiz is his real name – is the most vivid and and the most dramatic personality which has come into the art of today.”
“Picasso may well be considered as the problem of modern art. He has bewildered the public by the variety of and the differences between his artistic phases. An exhibition of haphazard Picassos, such as that held at the Leicester galleries, looks like the work of a group of five or six men who have scarcely an obvious idea between them. Monsieur Coquiot, the often subtly malicious author of “Les Indépendants,” calls Picasso a chameleon and the epithet seems not unearned.”
However, Jan Gordon continued, "Picasso, is a chameleon with some internal-illuminant, he often reflects a borrowed colour more strongly than he has received it.”
Marie-Thérèse, Face and Profile 1931
Jan Gordon reproduced two Picasso works in his book, "Three Nudes" and "The Red Cloth" (1922).
We walked out of the Houston exhibition of 118 works (made between 1904 and 1970) last Saturday with this same impression of Picasso as a chameleon, but also with a sense of wildly restless experimentation.
The menu of what was simply an ordinary lunch in Sweden will astonish most people as it certainly astonished these two clever itinerants, Jan and Cora Gordon, who have just published "Two Vagabonds in Sweden and Lapland."
Swedish men and women, we are told, eat breakfast at eleven and lunch at four. The variety and magnitude of the viands on the luncheon table suggests baronial feasts of the Middle Ages.
In a hotel dining-room the first thing that strikes the eye is the large table, centred with a mountain of butter, which is flanked by tall stands upon which various kinds of bread are heaped—hard bread, black bread, hon…
"There is a delicious irresponsibility about the newest book on Spain, "Poor Folk in Spain," by Jan and Cora Gordon, 12s. 6d.. published by the Bodley Head, and some of the illustrations are funny enough to remind one of Heath Robinson.
The pictures the Gordon have brought back with them to England each have a history. Here are some quotations from the book that will show you some of the difficulties of painting in Spain :
Skirting the fonda wall, I found a corner which seemed secluded, and, sitting down, I began to paint an old woman and her fruit stall. One by one a few people gathered behind me. Blas, the gipsy musician, came up, greeted me, and added his solid presence to the spectators. A baker c…
The Sketch of Wednesday 26 March 1919 makes mention of an exhibition of Jan Gordon's art works at the Little Art Rooms, Duke Street, London.
Marthe Troly-Curtin writes,
"I have an idea that many of the fancy costumes worn at the Razzle-Dazzle Ball on the 12th were inspired by the show of dazzle ships which Jan Gordon, Lieutenant R.N.V.R., is having at the Little Art Rooms in Duke Street. I searched there in vain for some works by Jo Gordon too, as generally Jan and Jo are as inseparable in art as they are in life but "Jo" explained quaintly to me that they are trying the experiment of being "cats that walk on their lone" as regards picture shows only!"
The exhibition of water colours ("War and Peace") she mentions was reported on by P.G. Konody (The Observer, March 16, page 9), Jan Gordon's mentor at "The Observer." Konody wrote:
"He, too, has been attracted by the witchery of the "Dazzleship" which seems to draw…