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Jan Gordon and "The City of Dreadful Hate", 1916

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The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette of Saturday 22 January 1916 quotes Jan Gordon in "The New Witness" as follows:

"On a flat marsh, at the edge of a great green lake, surrounded on all sides by high and gloomy mountains, lies the City of Dreadful Hate, says Mr Jan Gordon in "The New Witness." It has no country, for those who hold it are not its owners, and to those who are its countrymen it will not submit. The greatest city in all those regions, yet has it no sovereign power, for hat constructs nothing ; and so hating itself it lies supine, a prey to any who will possess it. Within its walls a great street divides hate from hate, and at night he who does not hate must carry a lantern, so that the haters shall not kill him. This is not romance ; this is a description of Scutari, and in Albania. A truly strange city, with its mosques on one side of the "rue Internationale" and its cathedrals on the other - muezzin crying against Matins chi…

Jan Gordon on "Father Berry" in WW1 Serbia

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Dr James Berry (1860-1946) plays a prominent role in the story told by Jan and Cora Gordon in "The Luck of Thirteen" (1916), which they initially called "Wandering and Flight in the Land of Mud." The story of how the book came to be published is told here.

Jan Gordon was engineer to Dr. Berry's Serbian Mission from the Royal Free Hospital, accompanied by Jo his wife, Cora Josephine Gordon, artist, and V.A.D. After they expressed the need for a holiday, Dr. Berry gave the Gordons "a commission to go to Salonika to start with and find a disinfector which had gone astray" and this began the series of adventures which they retold in "The Luck of Thirteen."

Jan Gordon dedicated an article in The New Witness (April 1916, pages 117-120) to Dr. Berry.

Dr James Berry (1860-1946) 

Jan Gordon introduces Berry:
"Amongst the English men and women made prisoner in Serbia by the sudden invasion of Austria, Germany and Bulgaria is one of the most interes…

Jan Gordon on John Singer Sargent's "Gassed"

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John Singer Sargent's painting "Gassed" was named picture of the year in 1919 by The Times (May 3rd 1919, page 15) and praised by Churchill at the Royal Academy banquet for its "brilliant genius and painful significance."

John Singer Sargent's painting "Gassed" (modified from © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1460))

Jan Gordon, writing in the Athenaeum ("The Royal Academy. I.", 9th May 1919, pages 306-7), was less sure of the picture's merits.

"This picture is a descriptive work; it recounts the result of a gas attack in very much the language that an English schoolboy of the self-conscious age might use ... It seems as though after much preliminary the schoolboy had mounted to the top of the Trafalgar Monument and thence shouted his simple message through a megaphone."

Jan Gordon had written art criticism for The New Witness (under pseudonym John Salis) from 1916 to 1919 (when Paul Nash took over his column), and wrote for the Athenaeum du…

Jan Gordon (as Salis) on Raemaekers, 1916

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I came across this snippet by Jan Gordon (under pseudonym John Salis) in the Aberdeen Journal of Monday 20 March 1916:

Value of Raemaekers

Raemaekers (the Dutch cartoonist) is a neutral. Thence comes his immense value. Our eyes may be filled with prejudice, but his are clear; our words may be drugged with jealousy and hate, but Raemaekers is a neutral. That his drawings are not now neutral is self-evident, but the facts which tore him from his balanced attitude are just those facts which have nailed the Kaiser to his cross of shame.
                 John Salis, in “The New Witness.”

Who was this Raemaekers?

Louis Raemaekers (1869 – 1956) was a Dutch painter and editorial cartoonist for the Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraaf during World War I. According to his 1956 obituary in The Times: "Louis Raemaekers, the biting anti-German cartoonist of the 1914-18 War, died on July 26, 1956 at Scheveningen, near The Hague, at the age of 87. It has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one pr…

Jan Gordon on Sculpture by Epstein, 1920

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Jacob Epstein, celebrated and often controversial sculptor, was one of the people who loaned pieces for reproduction in the volume of Meninsky drawings introduced with an extended essay by Jan Gordon. Nina Hamnett remembered hoping to get a glimpse of Epstein in 1906, “I saw him through the window one day.” She later met him at the “independants”, which had been founded on the principle of the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. He liked a picture of hers that she had sent to the New English Art Club.

A review by Jan Gordon (from "Land and Water" February 1919) of a sculpture of Christ is quoted in the Arts and Letters section of "The Living Age". volume 304, page 794.

He argues that, "The Christ of the Gothic is that of an age when religion is the fundamental of existence. The Renaissance, unable to face the transcendental, concentrates on the Mother of Christ or on His normal life. The figure of Jesus is not so all pervadent - He has shrunk much. To-day we must…

Myron Nutting on Jan and Cora Gordon and the Meaning of Life

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Myron Nutting, on January 10th 1966, after reminiscing about Raymond Duncan, Gurdjieff, Isadora Duncan, Gordon Craig and Saxe Cummings, made the following observation about the Gordons and life in general:

"But one thing that I realized— especially after I talked once with Ludwig Lewisohn about the people who were most interesting and meant most to his life—was that they are by no means always the people who are the most well-known talents. It seemed to me that people who had special gifts or talents seemed to give everything they had to their work, and really the art of living suffers to a certain extent from it. I think that you could realize that—or at least it seems to me that you can—in most biographies. The art of living is itself a great art, and if everything of your life is put into your work, your life sometimes can easily go haywire. 

The life of Edgar Allan Poe is an example, and it may have been to a certain extent true of the poet Rimbaud. They are people who have le…

Cora Gordon's last London Commentary, June 1950

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Cora Gordon's last "London Commentary" in "The Studio" magazine was published in June 1950.

Myron Nutting reminisced on her writing for this magazine:

"I know that Cora lived in London and that she was a writer for the Studio magazine. In the old days it used to be the International Studio. It was quite a luxurious magazine and she did art news and writing for the Studio for quite a number of years. I saw her name. She wrote quite well, not in a critical way. It was more of an art news sort of thing."

His observation is very good and consistent with her comment in that last piece, "It is a pleasure to write about what one likes and but a waste of time to throw brickbats at one's dislikes."

I also like her powerful response to Epstein's sculptures: "Personally I was struck with the intense feeling of Life breaking through Death."





In the July issue of the magazine the following note appears, "It is regretted that Mrs Cor…

Cora Josephine Gordon Obituary, September 1950

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I can find no obituary for Cora Josephine Gordon available online, but here share the obituary presented in the September 1950 issue of the The Studio.

Cora Gordon had been a regular contributor of "The London Commentary" to this magazine, but in the July 1950 issue the commentary was written by G.S. Whittet, with a sad note from the editor at the end of the piece, "It is regretted that Mrs Cora J. Gordon is ill, at the time of going to press. We are sure all our readers wish her a speedy recovery."

The September issue of the magazine announces "the death of Mrs Cora Gordon on July 1st, after an illness extending over the previous few months."



"Mrs Gordon contributed the 'London Commentary' to THE STUDIO from her husband's death in 1944 until she was taken ill in April, 1950. Only a few days before she died she was asking for exhibition cards, anxious to start out again on her tour of the Galleries and resume the task she loved so well. …

Jan Gordon with Gladys Hines, Nina Hamnett and R.H. Wilenski

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Jan Gordon, Gladys Hines (1888-1958), Nina Hamnett (1890-1956) and R.H. Wilenski (1887-1975) were contemporaries at the London School of Art ("Brangwyns"). Nina Hamnett moved there in 1907 after she had transferred from the Pelham Art School and continued her studies until 1910. Jan Gordon was her contemporary there during 1907-8, before his move to Paris.

Nina Hamnett is mentioned in "The London Roundabout" (1933) in a nostalgic conversation between Jan Gordon and "G.": "G. and I were discussing real-life romances of the students with whom we had been at school." "G." may be Gladys Hines who is the model in this painting by Harold Knight.

Gordon wrote, ""By Jove!" I say to G. "If we had only known what would happen to all the school geniuses..."
"Yes," said G.,"Who would have thought that ... N. would have turned up as a half-drunken, half-genius notoriety, ..."" (The text is unusual f…

Jan and Cora Gordon in Paris: "We Like to Work Till Four O'Clock"

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Myron Chester Nutting's wonderful reminiscences of his time as an artist in Paris during the 1920s include a charming anecdote about afternoon tea with Jan and Cora Gordon.

The Gordons had painted a sign which they hung on their door: "We Like to Work Till Four O'Clock." "After that, they were very sociable people—they liked to have their friends in—so after four, you could drop around and be sure of a welcome."

Nutting describes a unique and amusing afternoon with the Gordons, involving a nearly unintelligible writer, a partial building collapse and a "banshee":

"It was after four, and in the English custom, they had the tea table set up. A few friends of theirs were there, and Cora introduced me to a writer (I think he was a Bulgarian). She thought he was quite an important talent. Some work of his was going to be produced in Paris. So I sat down next to him, and he was very talkative, and in his speech, he got along quite well. Apparently,…

Jan and Cora Gordon with Eduard Steichen in pre-WW1 Paris

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A successful American couple nicknamed "the Praps" figure prominently in Jan Gordon's "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927). They organised many soirées and were significant characters in the pre-WW1 Anglo-Saxon Paris community. "Mr. Praps" was a photographer; he participated in a showdown between "Mr. Carpenter"/Turner (Cora Josephine's father) and "William Arnold"/Jan Gordon shortly before the marriage of Jan and Cora. I presume that "Praps" is a compression of "perhaps", perhaps a word he used often.

Who could they have been these "Praps"?

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and his wife Clara are a perfect match to the descriptions given. Edward Jean Steichen was a successful photographer and artist, and lived with Clara in Montparnasse from 1906 until the outbreak of WW1, when they returned to New York. In Paris, he exhibited his paintings at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and at the Salo…

Jan and Cora Gordon: In Search of Romantic America, 1927-1928

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Myron Nutting, their American friend in Paris, wrote of the Gordons' plans for their USA trip in 1927:

"The last time that I saw him was when they were planning their last big adventure, and they were really excited about it. They were going to explore the United States. And it was quite amusing, because they would do a great deal of talking about it in anticipation of the trip. You'd think they were a new Columbus discovering a country that nobody had ever seen before, and they'd tell us things about our own country as though we hadn't been born there, [laughter] Incidentally I think that is something that a real traveler will do. He anticipates certain things; then he is interested in finding out how the real thing doesn't jibe with his anticipations. I remember that Besnard said that one of the first things he always did before he went on a trip — he made some trips to Africa and other countries — was to sit down and make a lot of sketches of what he though…

Jan and Cora Gordon in pre-WW1 Paris: Max Beckman

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Jan Gordon's 1916 text on the Closerie des Lilas ("The New Witness" December 28, 1916, pg 277) refers to "B---, German painter of Apache dens for his own pleasure, and of ladies clad only in stockings pour vendre."

Perhaps with the exception of a phonetic "K" for Carco, in Jan Gordon's replacement of actual names with a single capital letter he uses the first letter of an individual's real surname.  Who could this "B---" be?

One German painter known to frequent the Closerie des Lilas (in the company of Edvard Munch) was Max Beckmann (1884-1950).

He wrote, in January 1904, "I come here so often that the waiters are amused. Perhaps partly because we were so drunk yesterday. The air is always the same, the gloom is always the same, and so is the urge to create." (quoted in "The Man who Invented the Third Reich" by Stan Lauryssens)

Max Beckmann and his wife Minna, 1909.  Modified from an image at the Berlinische Galer…

Jan and Cora Gordon: The Apache in pre-WW1 Paris

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I recently bought a 1907 copy of "Le Petit Journal", which has a famous cover illustrating the unequal struggle between the Paris police and the "Apache".

"L'Apache est la plaie de Paris" - More than 30,000 prowlers against 8,000 city policemen
Jan Gordon (under pseudonym "Salis") mentions the "apache" in a 1916 piece in "The New Witness": "One Christmas in particular sticks in my memory. A baker's dozen of us, the thirteenth an airman, had supped upon shell-fish and snails at an oyster den frequented by the Apache."


I was not familiar with the term "apache" in this context, but learned that it refers to a Parisian violent criminal underworld subculture of the early 20th century.

Francis Carco quotes verses dedicated by André Salmon (1881-1969) to the "apache" gangsters of the time in his "Tendres Canailles" (1912): "Partageant mon vin, des filous; M'ont laissé caresser…

Jan and Cora Gordon: Who was Netta Peacock?

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Reading the dedication Jan Gordon's "Some Craftie Arts", I wondered who Netta Peacock was. The dedication to the book, which was published in 1930, reads:

"To NETTA PEACOCK As a souvenir of our long standing friendship and of seat No. J7."

Janetta Peacock was born in 1881at Great Paxton, Huntingdonshire. In the 1890s she met the Russian illustrator Elena Polenova (1850-98) and translated a number of Russian folk tales to be accompanied by Polenova's illustrations. In addition to translations she made a series of important photographs of pre-revolution Russia.

Photograph of Netta Peacock from Louise Hardiman's "About this book" in the newly released "Why the Bear has no Tail" by Elena Polenova (1850-98).

Netta Peacock became an art journalist and author, publishing "Millet" in 1905 (reviewed by "The Academy", March 25th, 1905).

Review of Netta Peacock's "Millet" in "The Academy", March 25th,…