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Showing posts from January, 2015

Jan and Cora Gordon: Early Shows (1910-11) reported in American Art News

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In  Jan Gordon's "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym), he writes, "In retrospect it is not the final success but precisely the early years of struggle, the lower slopes of Parnassus, which recur to the memory with a pleasing flavour." He describes their first four shows, one in Buxton, England, one in Ghent, Belgium and two in Paris.

Jan and Cora Gordon exhibited their paintings and etchings publicly from 1909 onwards. Their initial small post-marriage Buxton show was followed by an exhibition in Ghent, which was shared with a German friend. A motif from one painting dating from the time of that Ghent exhibition was later discussed at length in "A Step-ladder to Painting" (1934).

According to the story, the opening of the first of the Paris shows, at the studio of Henri Manuel, coincided with the fall of the Ministry (perhaps January 2012 since the next government overthrow was in December …

Cora Gordon: A 1940 illustrated talk on "Misadventures with a Donkey in Spain"

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In 2009 the descendants of the godson of Jan Gordon followed the route of the Spanish journey undertaken by Jan and Cora Gordon, with their gear in a cart pulled by Colonel Geraldine the donkey. The original story was published in "Misadventures with a Donkey in Spain" (1924) and the story of the 2009 journey is illustrated here.

Colonel Geraldine in full song
I have just seen a remembrance of a talk given by Cora Gordon on this trip, which was accompanied by lantern illustrations. She gave the talk during wartime, on January 18th 1940 at the Bishopsgate Institute, London.

Announcement for Cora Gordon's 1940 talk  (modified from an image on the Bishopsgate Institute's Facebook page)
I would guess that the lantern images would have included photographs, paintings and etchings like these shown below.

Rambla by Cora Gordon from the "Misadventures" journey.
Paco, the chief of police, plays guitar at José’s in Puerto Lumbreras. “Pepe Macho perched on a superior …

Jan and Cora Gordon: Who was M? Henri Manuel

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On September 14th 2014, I wrote about the identities of characters depicted in Jan Gordon's "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) and identified Francis Carco as a plausible candidate for the literary character "K". "K" chose Jan and Cora Gordon to exhibit their work at the art gallery of a fashionable photographer, referred to in the text as "M". I finished that post with "Now who was M?"

In a copy of "La Rue" by Francis Carco (1930) I found a portrait of Carco after a photo by Henri Manuel (1874-1947) and therefore considered Manuel as a candidate for "M". Carco and Manuel certainly knew each other, for example Carco wrote a report on "prison-hôpital spécialisée dans les maladies vénériennes" illustrated with photographs by Henri Manuel. Henri Manuel opened a Paris gallery in 1900 with his brother Gaston. They specialised in portrait photo…

Jan and Cora Gordon, How Places Change: La Closerie des Lilas 1930

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La Closerie des Lilas had been the scene of Paul Fort's vibrant Tuesday evening gatherings before WW1. Those international sessions had included the participation of Jan and Cora Gordon, together with André Salmon, Rainer Maria Rilke, Elin and David Wallin, Umberto Boccioni and Filippo Marinetti, Marie Laurencin, Jean Cocteau, Fritz Vanderpyl and Francis Carco, amongst others.

In "Three Lands on Three Wheels" Jan and Cora Gordon lamented how the place had changed.

Jo [Cora] Gordon had taken pity on a scruffy dog (not actually abandoned and lost, as revealed later in the story) and insisted on buying it some food.

"The unwilling victim"

However, the "only lighted windows of the whole broad place were those of the Closerie des Lilas.." and the cafe was no longer the place they once knew. "Formerly a simple and inviting haunt, it is now redecorated, bemirrored, and unsympathetic."

"Jo, having pushed through the doors, was momentarily dazed…

Jan and Cora Gordon: A 1932 Review of Three Lands on Three Wheels.

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There is a delightfully tetchy review, published in 1932 by "Pierre and Pierette Pan" in "The Tablet", of "Three Lands on Three Wheels" by Jan and Cora Gordon. It reads as follows:

"A QUART of small beer takes up as much room as a quart of old Cognac. In three hundred and sixty large pages, a pair of travellers could tell us a great deal about contemporary thought in the lands they have traversed ; but what Mr. and Mrs. Gordon give their readers is mostly the humours of what they call "voyaging-on-the-cheap." Such humours are almost always much more amusing to the actors or sufferers at the time than to listeners or readers later on ; and therefore we could wish that a candid friend had been allowed to go over the MS. of Three Lands on Three Wheels with three or more blue pencils. As they stand, too many of the facetious reminiscences compel us to say, in the memorable phrase of the late Queen Victoria : "We are not amused." And …

Jan and Cora Gordon: Palaeolithic Art at Altamira

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I remember being fascinated with Palaeolithic animal art from an early age. I eventually (in 1994) visited one of the caves containing such art, in northern Spain, the Cueva de Santimamiñe. There were wonderful images of horses, bison, lions, bears, rhinoceros and other Palaeolithic animals. I was confused at not being able to understand the Spanish of the guide until it dawned that he was actually speaking Basque.

In their book "Three Lands on Three Wheels" page 168 Jan and Cora Gordon digress from their journey to remember their visit to the caves of Altamira in northern Spain. They walked up "a mile and a half of sopping hillside", obeyed the command to leave all sticks, umbrellas and cameras with the guide's family and "the lock clanked, the grille swung, and we stepped out of the misty rain into the oldest art gallery in the world."

"Another key clanked, an iron door fixed in the limestone swung, and we were ushered into the inner sanctuar…

Jan and Cora Gordon in Portugal 1933

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Passenger records for 1933 reveal that Jan and Cora Gordon departed for Lisbon from Liverpool on board the Arlanza, leaving Southampton on the 6th May 1933. Jan Gordon was 51 and Cora 54. They arrived back in Liverpool on the 11th August 1933, on board the Deseado Royal Mail ship.

The account of this journey can be found in Book II of "Portuguese Somersault", Book I being concerned with an earlier and less successful trip after which they had vowed never to go back.

On the Arlanza to Lisbon, May 1933

At the end of their first visit they had purchased a pottery bull in Amarante for one escudo (about twopence-halfpenny at the time)."The body was bright orange, and it stood on stiff orange legs. From each side of a golden, conical head enormous horns spread out with a subtle and striking double curve. The tail was bent in a loop, and the lower half was attached to the side of the leg." This bull is illustrated on the cover of the book and also makes an appearance in …