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Showing posts from December, 2016

A1932 review of "Three Lands on Three Wheels" in The Sphere, 1932

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The Sphere of July 23rd 1932 contains a very positive review by Cecil Roberts of "Three Lands on Three Wheels" by Jan and Cora Gordon.

"What a happy pair the Gordons are, and how their pluck has been rewarded. Once upon a time they began to travel across the earth because they were vagabonds and had nothing at all. Now their travel books sell by the thousands, but they are wise enough to remain vagabonds and travel for as little as possible. Hence the three wheels of their motor-cycle and side-car, the latter being their wardrobe. The three countries were France, England, and Ireland."

"The charm of this book lies not only in the text, but also in the drawings that illustrate it. The Gordons miss nothing. I think I know that inn by the old walls in the medieval town of la Rochelle."

"Here are nearly four hundred pages of excellent reading, delightful sketches, and a revealing picture of France, England, and Ireland."



Jan Gordon, of Aberdeenshire stock, on the People's Poetry, 1930

The Dundee Courier, Wednesday 14th May 1930 carries a story about Jan Gordon's Aberdeenshire ancestors and his public talk on the people's poetry. Gordon was not well known for his poetry, although he much later published a small book of nonsense rhymes on famous artists, "Art Ain't All Paint" (1944).

"Of Aberdeenshire stock.

Jan and Cora Gordon, whose leisurely travels through Europe have been so delightfully recorded in the various books they have collaborated in writing, are to be the guests of the Poets' Club in London on Friday evening. Jan, whose real name, by the way, is Godfrey Jervis Gordon, will speak of the people's poetry of to-day in the many lands he has visited, and will also read from his own verse. Like Mr Henry Simpson, the banker poet (nephew of the late Mr Alexander Forbes of Aberdeen), who looks upon the Poets' Club as a pet child, Mr Gordon comes of Aberdeenshire stock. His ancestor, Mr William Gordon, was the schoolmaster o…

An unfavourable review of a 1934 exhibition by Jan and Cora Gordon

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Jan and Cora Gordon exhibited in the Lefevre Gallery London in 1937 to some favourable reviews. However, I just discovered some far less supportive comments on a 1934 show in the same gallery.

The London Art Critic for The Scotsman (Friday October 19th, 1934) found the work of Sine Mackinnon (1901-1997) "eminently urbane, sophisticated, polished." The critic ranks Mackinnon "among the half-dozen best women painters in London. Who are they? Well, offhand, I suggest Eve Kirk, Winifred Nicholson, A.K. Browning, and Margaret Fisher-Prout, though duty compels me to add that Laura Knight and Ethel Walker have serious claims, and doubtless I have forgotten many others."

In contrast, the critic makes the following observations on the works by Jan and Cora Gordon: "The Gordons, well-known for their travel books, paint very much alike. The only difference is technical. Cora uses oil and Jan water-colour and tempera. Their work is pleasant but heavy-handed. To borrow ano…

"Two Bohemian Travellers visit the Town of Jazz and Fake," 1930

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The Evening Telegraph of Thursday, November 13th 1930, carries a story about the visit of Jan and Cora Gordon to Los Angeles. It is a review of "Star-Dust in Hollywood": The Truth About the Film City by the famous vagabond travellers, Jan and Cora Gordon. Harrap, 12s 6d.




The segment on real estate salesmen made me me smile and brought back recent memories of California. "They talk of the strenuous efforts made by real estate salesmen to sell off as much of the property as possible to gullible tourists, for they have an immense surplus of buildings, and still they build more fantastic and wonderful buildings in all styles and manners - Moorish palaces, olde Englishe cottages, Mexican bungaloes, Grecian temples, and so on, and so on."

The review also highlights the less glamorous sides of the movie business as described by the Gordons, also the subject of other publications, such as "Behind the Film."
"In Hollywood there are more beautiful girls to th…

Jan and Cora Gordon: Three Lands on Three Wheels

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Jan and Cora Gordon dedicated "Three Lands on Three Wheels" (1932) to Steven and Gertrude Spurrier, "a poor recognition of their rich friendship." This friendship dated back to WW1 when Gordon and Spurrier had worked together on dazzle painting designs for wartime shipping. There is a wonderful earlier dedication from Jan Gordon to Steven Spurrier in a copy of "Modern French Painters": "To my old pal Spurrier in memory of the purest art we ever touched. Dazzle. Jan Gordon."

The idea that the Gordons should tour France, England and Ireland in succession and record their contrasting impressions came from their publishers (Harrap & co) and they duly set off, spending two months in France, one month in England and six weeks in Ireland. The book, however, contains 13 chapters on France, but only 3 on England and 4 on Ireland.




The book received a very mixed review from "Pierre and Pierette Pan" in "The Tablet", which concluded …

Jan Gordon's "The Ostwald Colour System" (1938)

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Jan Gordon's book, "The Ostwald Colour System, An Elementary Introduction" (1938, Reeves & Sons) is very rarely seen. This work was the only one missing from the list of Jan Gordon's books produced for his memorial exhibition in 1944.

Gordon begins with, "To understand sufficiently how the Ostwald Colour system was constructed and to understand how it may be used is not, I believe, as difficult as many would have us think."


The book cover

He recommends the system to artists, "making them more keenly aware of the properties of colours in harmonious associations" and also for use in schools, "by helping pupils to realise what a colour is, what it can do and how it may be combined with other colours."


The achromatic scale and the 8 hues and 24 colour circle (left)  and isotint, isotone and isovalent circles (right)
"The Ostwald system creates a colour space based on dominant wavelength, purity, and luminance, mapping the values of …

The Slade Strawberry Picnic of June 23rd 1905

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A year ago, I wrote on Cora Josephine Turner and the Slade School of Art. Cora Turner studied at the Slade between 1902 and 1906 before her move to Paris.

UCL has presented this wonderful photograph from that time period, taken on June 23rd 1905. This was the day of the annual Slade Strawberry Picnic.

The building in the background is the North Wing of the UCL quadrangle, dating back to the 1870s, initially occupied by the Chemistry department. It is said to be the building in which the largest number of chemical elements were discovered.

The Slade Strawberry Picnic on 23 June 1905, image courtesy of the UCL archive team. Cora Josephine is in the group.
In "A Girl in the Art Class," the character Raymonde (representing Cora Josephine Turner) comments that,"My three years at Lyceum Hall and at Edals were happy ones because I never stopped to think."

A selection of Cora Josephine's subsequent art works can be seen here.

Jan Gordon and WWI Dazzle Ship Painting: a new book by James Taylor

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Dr. James Taylor has just published (2016) a fine new book on the development of dazzle ship painting during WW1: "Dazzle: Disguise and Disruption in War and Art." Taylor points out that, "in the course of the First World War, a collision of naval strategy and the nascent modern art movement, led to some two thousand British ships going to sea as the largest painted modernist “canvases” in the world covered in abstract, clashing, decorative, and geometric designs in a myriad of colors."

I had long been interested in the role played by Jan Gordon, who was part of the Norman Wilkinson team (see this gallery), in the development of these designs. In a wonderful dedication to his colleague in the design team of that time, Steven Spurrier, Gordon wrote:

     "To my old pal Spurrier

            in memory of the purest art we ever touched. Dazzle.

                                                              Jan Gordon"

The dedication is found in a copy of Gordon…