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: 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 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…
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…
"The Sketch" of Wednesday 31st March 1915 contains a "Novel In A Nutshell" by Jan Gordon. This was written before his February departure for Serbia to serve with Dr. James Berry. I had not come across this before.
THE DANDY. By JAN GORDON.
THE infernal drumming of guns, which had died down at night fall, broke out again with the glimmer of the new dawn: gun-smoke smeared dirty finger-marks across the purity of the reddening sky, and, in the growing light, the mountain-tops seemed all afire, as though their very stones were smouldering. In the gloomy valleys, bursting shrapnel spotted the forests with sudden transient growths, like gigantic dandelion-heads, instantly dissipated by the morning breeze.
Crouching in a ditch which had been their shelter during the night, the piou-pious waited tensely. Marchand, the Lieutenant, a few paces to the rear, leaned on his sword, glancing backward from time to time at the cannon-smoke which drifted slowly up behind him. The co…