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 valuable 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.
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, rereading Jan Gordon's "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) I wondered who the character known only as "K" might be.
The text states that, "K --- has since climbed to eminence, the button of the legion of honour, the front page of a great daily, poems in profusion, and a number of plays; but in those days he clung to a paper which hung on the edge of bankruptcy, and was the author of one slim book of verse in praise of opium dreams, a long way after Baudelaire."
"K" chose Jan and Cora Gordon to exhibit their work at the art gallery of a fashionable photographer he "had been of service to", referred to in the text as "M". The show "was noticed favourably" and Cora sold (to a diplomat, perhaps Paul Morand) "a big exuberant drawing in colour of the Cleopatra-cum-anachronism period."
Two phrases from this book resonated when I first read it:
"Now and again a wolf howled from far away, and somewhere a kid, lost or smelling some wolf-taint in the air, bleated with persistent terror" pg. 138.
"As we came down into the cultivated fields of the valley we found ourselves walking through clouds of red-winged grasshoppers, which sprang up on all sides with a clattering flight." pg. 139
The book begins with "Don't stay in Durazzo." From Durazzo they made a clockwise loop to the south, passing through Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Kelcyre, Permeti and Gjinokastro before returning north to Tirana. The second leg of the journey was an excursion to the north, from Scutari up into the mountains.
Map of prominent places visited on the southern loop described in "Two Vagabonds in Albania"
During the second of the Paris art shows described in Jan Gordon's "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) a lady poetess "swore that De M---, the great French actor, must see Claribel's [Cora Gordon's] drawings. But, alas! De M--- was in bed."
The poetess took Cora in a cab to see the actor, along with the more exotic and esoteric of her drawings (according to Jan Gordon, Cora's designs were "mostly of semi-nude dancers making arabesques of themselves to a counter rhythm of draperies and cats.")
Left in an antechamber, she found herself "in the midst of a weird collection", every piece in the crowded assemblage "picked for some sinister or erotic quality." "At intervals a creaking voice uttered French words of considerable impropriety" - this was a parrot. Behind a curtain was a bathroom in which the bath was scooped in the black marble floor. "…