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
"For many years Cora Gordon has made a habit of using the meetings at Hyde Park as a most profitable ground for character sketching." This forms the subject for a chapter in "The London Roundabout" (1933).
"It is splendid fun but can also be very hard work. After three or four hours of intensive sketching in the Park, Mrs. Gordon often comes home quite exhausted. In that time she might have drawn perhaps a hundred heads, at least thirty of which will be brilliant summaries of character likeness."
I remember hearing this story as a youth, with an emphasis on drawing directly in ink: "If you can't correct you are bound to observe with precision."
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. "…