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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…