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.
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.