Jan and Cora Gordon with Myron Nutting in Paris and New York (1927)

Amongst the numerous artistic acquaintances of Jan and Cora Gordon in Paris in the 1920s were Mr. and Mrs. Myron Chester Nutting. Myron Nutting (1890-1972) was a painter who studied at the Académie Julian (the school at which Jan Gordon had initially registered in Paris) under André Lhote and the University of Paris under Maurice Denis. He was a friend of James Joyce and painted portraits of Joyce's wife and daughter in the early 1920s.

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 he wrote on art very well.." The Gordons' travel books are shown here and Jan Gordon's books on art here.

"They'd spend their winters writing and working on their drawings and illustrations for their books. She especially did a great deal of sketching and did some rather nice things of their travels. They also were very good etchers, and he was a good painter, not especially a distinguished one, but he had a thorough understanding of his craft."

The last time the Nuttings saw the Gordons was in 1927 when they were planning their adventure in the United States and had a final dinner together in New York. The Nuttings had returned to New York from Paris that year and were in mid-ocean when Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris at the end of May. This was the journey that led to "On Wandering Wheels" (1929) and "Star-dust in Hollywood" (1930) as well as several newspaper and other articles.


"The Respectable Ruin", a 1920 Ford sedan, bought for $150 and here being fitted with an improvised "Mezzanine Floor" to enable the Gordons to sleep in the back. From "On Wandering Wheels." Myron Nutting remembered that "They got a little old Ford and went down South, and from there, they went on a regular old-fashioned showboat. That seemed to give them a lot of experiences they enjoyed. They were on the show-boat for some time and then took off across country."

In "On Wandering Wheels" Jan Gordon retells a story which had shocked a "Paris-American" friend (presumably Myron Nutting) who had lived for many years in Paris and "was out of touch with home life." "In his native town he and an artist friend were standing on the steps of the palatial art school when a car was driven up. A young man got out and, having parked to one side, ran up the art school steps. "Good heavens," said our friend, "do the students now come to school in automobiles?" "Student?" answered the other. He isn't a student; he's the model."

In his interview Nutting mentions the heart attack suffered by Jan Gordon in Los Angeles and how "the only way they could get back to Europe was by going through the canal. They didn't dare cross into higher altitudes; they had to keep more or less at sea level for his safety."

I find the affection felt by Nutting for the Gordons to be striking. He admires their craftsmanship, their broad interests and their sense of fun, while judging that they "were not producing anything of any vast importance .." The Gordons are not well remembered as influential artists, but their intimate writing style and breadth of creativity still inspire affection to this day.



Reference: Nutting, Myron C., 1890-1972, interviewee; Schippers, Donald J., interviewer; University of California, Los Angeles. Oral History Program. Oral History collection, Dept. of Special Collections, University Library, University of California, Los Angeles. My thanks to Ginny and Alva at UCLA for permission to quote.

Comments

  1. The anecdote about the model also appears in "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927), pg 68: "You ought to see our Art school in Cleveland, Ohio. Why, it's a palace. I tell you, the model comes to school in a Ford car, his own."

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