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: A Sketch for a Portrait
It's always fun to see the sketches made by an artist before producing a finished portrait.
I found the following sketch in the backing of a framed etching by Jan Gordon. It shows Ashley Smith (my grandfather) sitting in a chair in his London home, cross-legged, reading a book.
The chair is shown face on, with Ashley Smith swivelled to his left. Few lines are used.
In the finished portrait, Ashley is shown from his left, leaning forward to read the book, cigarette in mouth. One of the chair's clawed wooden front feet can be seen together with the chair's green upholstery. The corner of an old Persian rug is visible just in front of Ashley's well-polished shoes.
The chair in the picture still survives in the family, now upholstered in red, as it has been as far back as I can remember.
Ashley with wife Doris visited the Gordons' studio in Paris in 1922 and 1923 and Jan and Cora Gordon visited Ashley and Doris in London during 1925 where they had an exhibition at the XXI Gallery. They seem to have drifted apart during the early 1930s. For a way into the art, writings, musicianship and contemporaries of Jan and Cora Gordon see Art of Jan and Cora Gordon.
The menu of what was simply an ordinary lunch in 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, honey brea…
"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…
in 1966 Myron Nutting remembered Jan and Cora Gordon as among the friends in Paris that they enjoyed the most, "because they were really good fun ... and also were highly cultivated people with interests in all sorts of things. They were good musicians. He was well educated and could discuss any subject, and he saw the humor of life."
"They were not producing anything of any vast importance but they enjoyed doing their work, which was writing. They made their living with their books, and every year they got out a travel book. Also h…