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Who was Harraden Scar in Jan Gordon's "A Girl in the Art Class"?

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"Harraden Scar" is an important character in "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927) by Jan Gordon. He is a friend of Raymonde Carpenter (Cora Josephine Turner) in Paris: "The acquaintances of the Art schools suddenly began to ripen into friendships ; I began to be invited to their studios by Mrs. Sovil, by Harraden Scar," and others.

When I first read the book, I was strongly reminded of Walter Sickert (1860-1942) and, checking the details (discussed below), feel more confident than ever that Sickert is very probably the inspiration for the character Scar.

Walter Sickert, 1911, by George Charles Beresford (public domain).

In 1899 Sickert was divorced from his first wife (the daughter of a liberal politician) and for six years then lived in Venice, Dieppe and Paris. He taught at the Westminster Institute, started a school for etching, and had exhibitions at London and Paris galleries. He is said to have exhibited at at least 15 Paris shows between 1900 and 1909…

Cora Josephine Turner and Matisse, 1908-1912

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Henri Matisse's role in the transition from academic naturalism to modernism is mentioned several times in Jan Gordon's 1927 "A Girl in the Art Class." Raymonde Carpenter's (Cora Josephine Turner's) changing views on the nature of art are an underlying thread to the story.

"Paris, and especially M. Gruke's [Christian Krohg's] class, had robbed me of the extreme arrogance of my ignorance, but it had hardly prepared me for Matisse, nevertheless. I had come to place some odd faith in the critical powers of Mr. Scar, and when I had heard both him and Lucie Pirelli, the gifted dwarf, uphold the superb qualities of the vision of Matisse, I went to the Indépendants quite hoping to be dazzled."

Instead, she was confused and disappointed. "And at last, when I came to Matisse, and passed from him to Vlaminck and to Van Dongen, and came at last to Henri Rousseau, before whose pictures the committee of the Indépendants itself had dug holes which ha…

Cora Josephine Turner and the Salon des Beaux Arts 1908

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As has been noted before, "A Girl in the Art Class" by Jan Gordon (1927) is based on the actual life history of Cora Josephine Gordon (née Turner). Despite the various disguised names (e.g.) and misdirection by the author as to dates (e.g.), it is possible to find documentary evidence for several specific accounts in the book.

Today's small quest was for a record relating to the story surrounding the central importance to Cora's artist friends of having artworks selected for display in the Paris salons and Cora Turner's first participation in one of these salons. Cora had been posing for a Mrs. Sovil for a picture destined for the salon. "During these long vacancies of posing I made up my mind to try myself for this Salon. I engendered only an abstract ambition to attempt the Salon, an ambition which germinated in me and took root."

While reading in bed one Saturday evening, Cora decided, for her entry to the salon, to illustrate a tale by Gautier, &qu…

Art Exhibitions by Jan and Cora Gordon

After a successful search over the past few years, in English and French newspapers, for accounts of art exhibitions at which works of Jan and Cora Gordon were shown, now seems a good moment to take stock and summarise.

They span 36 years, from 1908 to 1944.

Contemporary reviews varied, from effusive in the case of the 1913 Paris exhibitions to dismissive for some of the earlier English shows, to positive for the later London shows, and deeply affectionate in the case of that final 1944 show at the Modern Gallery.

The links associated with each of the exhibitions mentioned below take you to an article on that particular show, including in most cases contemporary views of the artworks.

-1908, Salon des Beaux-Arts, Paris.

-1909, Buxton, Derbyshire.

-1909-10, Ghent, Belgium.

-1910, Paris Salon.

-1911, London Salon. 

-1912, Baillie Gallery, London.

-1913 (March). Galerie Henri Manuel, Paris. 

-1913 (December), Galerie Henri Manuel, Paris. 

-1916, Walker's Galleries, London.

-1919, Li…

Cora Josephine Turner with Christian Krohg in Paris (1907-1908)

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In Jan Gordon's "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927), "Raymonde Carpenter" (Cora Josephine Turner) encountered a "M. Gruke":
 "A class had now been begun upstairs at Issor Calo's under the tuition of a M. Gruke, a well-known Scandinavian painter. I joined this class for a month."

"In M. Gruke's studio I found a number of intent crop-headed Scandinavian men and of equally serious, flaxen-haired women, painting the nude figure in variegated tones of yellow, green and purple with harshly  drawn ultramarine outlines." This was in stark contrast to the teachings of the Slade school in London, in which nature was seen "as something cautiously tinted upon a seriously drawn and evaluated background of burnt sienna, yellow ochre and black." Gruke gave his class "solid and lengthy criticisms in his queer Scandinavian sing-song intonation."

"M. Gruke himself was an enormous man who had widened with age. At my fir…

Who was "Ruddy Gore" in "A Girl in the Art Class by Jan Gordon?

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One of the characters in "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927) by Jan Gordon, is called "Ruddy Gore."

"Raymonde Carpenter" (Cora Josephine Turner) was not impressed with his work (or perhaps this was Jan Gordon's view as author of the book). "I thought he lacked manners, style - no, poor Ruddy was vulgar. An artist must not be vulgar, not in England. (In parenthesis, Ruddy has succeeded in spite of my opposite conviction. Empty-headed himself but executive, he married a woman with a bright brain, she gave him the ideas, he worked them out, and with her help he has climbed to a very respectable income as a poster-artist.)"

Who was this Ruddy Gore? In this case, I guessed that if the real surname was Gore, then Jan Gordon would be tempted to give him the fake forename of "Ruddy." There is indeed an artist called Gore who fits the character in the book in many respects: Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914).  He was known for landscapes, mus…

Cora Josephine Turner's Early Illustrations for the "Lounger"

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In "A Girl in the Art Class" by Jan Gordon, Cora Josephine Turner ("Raymonde Carpenter" in the book) decided to make "a raid on Fleet Street." She aimed to visit the editors of magazines in Fleet Street and Covent Garden, seeking work as an illustrator. "I walked along the street and when I saw the name of a paper went in." The editor of the Christian Post gave her tea and then wrote out "several addresses more promising of business than himself.." Eventually there was some success: ".. from the editor of the Lounger I received a commission, and went away from that journal overjoyed, with a real galley proof in my pocket." Considering synonyms of "lounger" leads us quickly to the identification of this magazine as "The Idler," a British monthly magazine published between 1892 and 1911.

Later, "Raymonde" "had been working industriously on the illustrations for the Lounger. The subject suited…

Cora Josephine Turner and the Slade School of Art

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Reading again about Cora Josephine Turner's time at the Slade School of Art ("Edals" in the book) in "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927), I was curious to see if Cora was recorded in their list of alumni. Yes she is, here ranked at number 77. She is recorded here as having been at the school between 1902 and 1906.



Cora Josephine is thinly disguised as "Raymonde Carpenter" in the book, which, as many contemporary reviews noted, was clearly written from life. The dedication is: "To my wife Jo, from whom I have stolen all that I have not stolen from others concerning Raymonde."



The title page displays a quote from Strindburg, "Of young people in the irregular situation that intervenes between the time that they leave their parents' house and the time that they enter one of their very own."




Jan Gordon's approach to disguising characters in his writing changed from using the first letter of the surname plus a dash (see) to the pla…

Jan and Cora Gordon in pre-WW1 Munich

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I have written before (October 2014, March 2015) on the pre-WW1 stay of the Gordons at 57 Belgradstrasse, Munich and the diverse and creative company at the Fürmanns' Munich boarding house.

Cora Gordon (1950) had written, "The Pension Fürmann was then famous as the abode of the liveliest and most impoverished students, sub-editors, teachers and cranks of the city [Dering 1998]. Fürmann, a fatherly man with a kind eye and a formidable chin, had in his youth emigrated to America. On returning he inherited a small farm situated in the bohemian and formerly outlying part of the town. He added to the building and for three marks (2s. 6d.) a day you got a room and excellent board with high jinks and dancing on Saturday evenings. Once a month we paid two marks each towards the fee of a little peasant dance orchestra and also enjoyed a barrel of beer in the kitchen." "Those monthly balls were treated by us as great occasions for which we designed fancy dresses and made quit…

Cora Gordon in Coterie 1919

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Browsing Coterie magazine, No. 2, September 1919, I came across the following drawings by Cora Gordon.


The charming line drawings of goose and pig showcase Cora Gordon's virtuosity with a pen. 
Cora's ability to rapidly sketch with a fountain pen was well known in my house and was celebrated in a chapter of A Step-ladder to Painting by Jan Gordon.
Another well known set of pen drawings by Cora Gordon were of my aunt Pamela.
For other works of art by Cora Gordon, including many drawings, please see.


A March 1913 exhibition by Jan and Cora gordon in Paris

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L'Homme Libre (18th July 1913) contains a note from Henri Manuel about a Paris exhibition by Jan and Cora Gordon which had opened on the 28th of March, 1913.

The show is discussed in Comoedia(26th March 1913), though they mistake the nationality of the Gordons as American and Jan becomes "Jean"! "Une centaine d'oeuvres seront exposées a partir du 28 Mars à la Galerie Henri Manuel, 27, rue du Faubourg Montmartre. Ce sont les œuvres de deux artistes américains de grand talent: M. Jean Gordon et Miss Cora Gordon"

"L'Art et les Artistes" also mentions this show:



The exhibition was advertised in the daily "Informations" in Gil Blas:



Gil Blas (29th March 2013) carried the following comment under the header "Entente cordiale."

The Gordons are correctly recognised as English and their originality is praised. A good crowd of elegant English and French personalities attended the opening. André Salmon had written a preface in the catal…

Jan and Cora Gordon exhibition at Galerie Henri Manuel, December 2nd 1913

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Browsing old editions of Gil Blas, I came across this note about the opening of an exhibition by Jan and Cora Gordon at the Galerie Henri Manuel, at 9:00 pm on the 2nd of December 1913.


The note states that this would be the second exhibition by the Gordons at the gallery. The first was in March 1913 (L'Homme Libre, July 18th 1913).
Jan Gordon would be exhibiting paintings and watercolours, whereas Cora Gordon would show paintings, etchings and decorated fans.
I had previously found a review of this show in L'Homme Libre, dated December 6th 1913.
Very enjoyably, this notice and the review link to the "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" piece by Jan Gordon, published in Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym. I had deciphered "M" in that story as Henri Manuel and "de M" as the famous Édouard de Max (I noticed that Ken Bryant was quick to pick up on the information, without acknowledgement).
The note in Gil Blas mentions that

Jan and Cora Gordon "By the Fireside", 1933

"From a Yorkshirewoman's Notebook," Monday October 2nd 1933 (Yorkshire Evening Post).

"I did not want to read a book from cover to cover - just to delve casually into the pages of some 'nice absurdity.' The fog was outside, and the fire within, so I settled down to laugh with Jan and Cora Gordon over some of their adventures in London after living 20 years on the continent. 'The London Roundabout,' just published (Harrap, 10s. 6d.), is a book that one can dip into time and time again and enjoy anew the odd facts and fancies taht strike these versatile artist-authors. Who but such a couple of vagabonds could tell so wittily, and yet so kindly, of their charwoman's horror on finding that 'Our Nence,' her eldest, had been posing as a model in the nude for a young artist?

Mrs, 'Arris, mother of twelve, who had ' 'ad as good as eighteen,' predicted dire results from such indecency. When Jan and Cora assured her that it was quit…

"Jan and Cora Gordon Try Settling in London", Yorkshire Evening Post 1933

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I just came across a lengthy article about Jan and Cora Gordon's return to London, in the Yorkshire Evening Post of Monday 9th October 1933.

"Some people always seem to be having adventures, even when, outwardly, their lives are not greatly different from their neighbours. Jan and Cora Gordon are that sort of people. They have had adventures - and written about them - in several parts of Europe, and in America, too, whereby came their famous book, "Star Dust in Hollywood."

Anyone, you might say, could write entertainingly about out-of-the-way places and odd experiences, but now, in "The London Roundabout" (Harrap, 10s. 6d. net), one finds Mr. and Mrs. Gordon finding gems amid unpromising dust, writing and sketching just as entertainingly, and with just the same knack of spotting essentials, and ranging wittily from the particular to the general and back again.

Besides which, they have lived so long and so variously abroad that their occasionally candid crit…

Jan and Cora Gordon: guitars and the gentle art of tramping

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In “The Gentle Art of Tramping” (1927), Stephen Graham writes that in Spain “One is almost bound to be called upon to explain oneself to the police, and to find oneself described officially as a vagrant. Jan and Cora Gordon, two delightful vagabonds, got over the difficulty by carrying guitars, and they were understood to be itinerant musicians. In the end, because they played so well, they won over the affections of many somber Spaniards."

I have never been a real itinerant musician, but have often found that playing a musical instrument in public is a wonderful social connector no matter which country you find yourself in. I remember jazz duels and duets with Rick Centeno (a very fine vibraphone player) in Gabon (we had a lot of fun with Señor Mouse) and both classical and jazz piano in Oman. I ran the music societies in both these countries. I never got up on stage with a guitar (here's my Cuenca and the battered old Juan Salvador), but often played it in more informal se…

Jan Gordon's "Painting for Beginners" and the connection with Marion Milner

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I own several copies of Jan Gordon's "Step-ladder to Painting", including one treasured copy with the autographs of four generations of family in it. I have previously written on "The Fountain Pen" section and a discussion on capturing emotion in art.

I received today a copy of the American edition of this book, "Painting for Beginners" in its 1946 Reprint Edition.

The dedication reads:
"To DENNIS AND MARION MILNER who so enthusiastically acted as the "dogs" on whom many of these suggestions were tried."


Marion Milner (1900–1998), née Marion Blackett, was a British author and psychoanalyst. She married Dennis Milner in 1927. She published "A Life of One's Own" (1934, which contains acknowledgements to Jan and Cora Gordon), "An Experiment in Leisure" (1937), "The Human Problem in Schools" (1938), "On Not Being Able to Paint" (1950) and "The Hands of the Living God" (1969).

Marion Mi…

"Ratapouf" 1914: Trois Poèmes by Fritz Vanderpyl

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On November 11th 2014, I outed Fritz Venderpyl as the character known as "Ratapouf" in an early (1916) article by Jan Gordon.

I recently came across an early group of three poems by Vanderpyl in a 1914 edition of Mercure de France.


I like the first, "En Posant."

He asks who will be better remembered in two hundred years time, the painter or the poet?- a painting or a poem?

Qui des deux restera, mon vieux,
mon poème ou ta peinture?
Qui connaitra-t-on dans deux cent ans,
ton nom ou ma ronde figure?

I love the reference to his "round figure." Jan Gordon (1916) describes 'Ratapouf' as follows: "Ratapouf, globular, somewhat like a Billiken.."

A hundred years have now passed since the poem was published. Who was better remembered, painter or poet? We don't know who the painter in the poem was, but many of the painters from this Montparnasse community achieved great fame. Vanderpyl is still remembered, but perhaps mainly for his antisemitism. …

Jan and Cora Gordon, 1928: Salesmanship in California

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I smiled last Saturday as we found ourselves taking part in an earnest time-share sales presentation in San Diego, succumbing to some insistent and misleading salesmanship, quite alien in style and content to anything a Brit would have come across at home.

This prompted a recollection of the encounter between Jan and Cora Gordon and California real estate salesmen in 1928 recorded in "Star-dust in Hollywood". The similarities are astonishing.

".. every real estate firm, in an agony of cut-throat competition, was trying to catch every 'tourist' as he arrived with his savings, to induce him if possible to invest his money in land before he could discover the real conditions. All along the streets near the centre of the town large rubber-neck wagons waited to abduct the wandering visitor. Young and often charming women pounced upon one from doors, waving prospectuses and promising free drives, free lunches and the rest."

Cora Gordon "was willing to becom…

Jan and Cora Gordon: "A Californian Holiday"

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Last Sunday, driving slowly along the coast at La Jolla, every available space was filled with a parked car and I remembered an image in "Star-dust in Hollywood" (1930) showing a similar scene.


"A Californian Holiday", in "Star-dust in Hollywood" (1930). The cars are very different, but the main elements of the scene are recognisable to this date along the Californian coast in summer.

La Jolla, Sunday 23rd August 2015. To be fair, there is a lot of snorkelling and paddle board activity happening in the sea below.

The Gordons describe a "pleasure-trip on Independence Day, down to the sea in cars." "An engineer friend and his wife invited us as an experiment in democracy to drive with them." "To work up a conviviality proper to Independence Day we joined a procession of cars, bonnet to spare tyre, like a line of precessional caterpillars, that crawled along the sea-front for some fifteen miles at an average speed of five miles an h…

Jan and Cora Gordon and "The Praps": Edward Steichen in WW2.

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Last Friday I visited the very enjoyable Maritime Museum of San Diego. One section showed wartime photographs by Edward Steichen, who had served as Director of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit.

Back in February of this year, I identified "The Praps", two prominent characters in "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927) as Eduard Steichen and his wife Clara. The Steichens knew Jan and Cora Gordon from their time living in Montparnasse between 1906 and 1914. The information presented in the museum provided a fascinating glimpse of Steichen's later work.


Steichen on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, Maritime Museum of San Diego. Here he is photographed above the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-16) by Ens Victor Jorgensen, November, 1943.

Carol McCusker's text on the role of Steichen's team in recording life on the aircraft carriers operating in the Pacific Theatre of WW2, Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Paintings by Jan and Cora Gordon in Glasgow

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I took a trip across to the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre today and was shown the paintings by Jan and Cora Gordon held there. The two by Jan Gordon date from the Gordons' Spanish journeys of the early 1920s. One by Cora Gordon dates from their "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc" (1925) journey.

My favourite of the three is "The Gypsy Singer," partly because I have an etching of the same scene and partly because the context is colourfully described in one of the Gordons' books, "Misadventures with a Donkey" (1924). The scene is set in Puerto Lumbreras (south-east Spain), where Paco, the chief of police, plays guitar at José’s place. A character called Pepe Macho was "perched on a superior packing-case high above us”. Gordon also noted a decoration on the wall: “some wandering sign-painter had depicted clumsily enough the figure of a semi-nude woman running with a bottle in her hands, her body wrapped round with a flag to advertise some popular bra…