Here are nearly 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.
Gordon begins with, "To understand sufficiently how the Ostwald Colour system was constructed and to understand how it may be used is not, I believe, as difficult as many would have us think."
The book cover
He recommends the system to artists, "making them more keenly aware of the properties of colours in harmonious associations" and also for use in schools, "by helping pupils to realise what a colour is, what it can do and how it may be combined with other colours."
The achromatic scale and the 8 hues and 24 colour circle (left)
and isotint, isotone and isovalent circles (right)
"The Ostwald system creates a colour space based on dominant wavelength, purity, and luminance, mapping the values of …
Jan Gordon's article elaborates on the distinction between camouflage designed to make an object blend in with its background and dazzle designed to confuse an attacker: " and so the word camouflage, with its associations, has been dropped in favour of the more appropriate word "dazzle-painting"". I illustrated this distinction in the February 2013 article by contrasting the daily camouflage activities of my pet cuttlefish ("Ramses") with the startling black and white "deimatic" patterns displayed during an escape from a perceived threat.
Earlier this year (April 21st) I wrote on a 1935 book dedication by Jan and Cora Gordon to Richard and Charlotte Perry, two friends living in Connecticut, USA.
Richard and Charlotte had hosted the Gordons in 1927, at the start of the journey recorded in "On Wandering Wheels." The Gordons had arrived in New York on the "American Merchant", May 10th 1927. The Perrys lived in Southport, named "Easyport" in the book. The Gordons were enchanted: "Set on the lawns were the white painted wooden mansions with their tall Corinthian pillars of wood, deceptive pillars giving such an air of massive dignity that it was a shock to pass under a house under repair and to note how the carpenter, wishing to replace some mouldered pediments, had calmly removed them bodily, leaving the huge fluted columns suspended from the cornice." - and writing of restoration, here is the Perry house today.