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: 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 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…