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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, experiencing 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 become…

Cora Gordon opens a Charles Murray exhibition in Yorkshire, 1949

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of Saturday 5th February 1949 carried the following story:
"Mrs. Cora Gordon, the artist and author, will open an exhibition of recent paintings Mr. Charles Murray, at the Art Gallery, Batley. It is appropriate that this one-man show should be held Yorkshire; for Mr. Murray, though an Aberdonian by birth, worked for years in Leeds and has been a consistent contributor to Yorkshire exhibitions. Indeed, we unblushingly claim him as a Yorkshire artist, though Aberdeen may have other views. His reputation is now national. Twice In the past few years has had successful one-man shows in London, and work by him has been included in an exhibition sent abroad by the British Council.Those unfamiliar with the idioms of modern art may find the present exhibition startling at first sight. There is more than a hint of Picasso in some of these works; and the very mention of Picasso's name seems sufficient to start a controversy. But the open-minded …

A 1932 review of Three Lands on Three Wheels with a focus on the Aran Islands

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The Northern Whig, Saturday 23 July 1932, carried a review of Jan and Cora Gordon's "Three Lands on Three Wheels," focusing on the account of their visit to the Aran Islands of County Galway. Here it is:Three Lands on Three Wheels. Jan and Cora Gordon. Harrap. 12s 6d net. Jan and Cora Gordon have travelled in many countries, and the chronicles of their wanderings invariably make good reading. "Three Lands on Three Wheels" is the entertaining record of a pilgrimage on a motor cycle and side car combination through parts of France, England, and Ireland. The Gordons are observant tourists; "chiels who take notes" of many quaint incidents, which people less vigilant and interested in the world about them would pass by unnoticed. Jan, the narrator of their journeyings, has an engaging sense of humour and a very tolerant outlook on humanity. Here we have no hint of the "superior person" attitude which fully accounts for the un-popularity of a cert…

Cora Gordon at the Paintings by British Women Exhibition, Tamworth 1949

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I came across an interesting account of Cora Gordon's participation at an exhibition in the Norman Castle at Tamworth, Staffordshire.
The Tamworth Herald of Saturday 16th July 1949 had the following to say:"Under the general title "Paintings by British Women," the Arts Council of Great Britain has on tour a selection of pictures from the recent exhibition held by the Women's International Art Club and it is in recognition of Tamworth's place as a centre of art interest that this collection is to be received on loan here and will be on view in the Castle Museum art gallery for a fortnight commencing on Sunday. The pictures, originally shown in the R.B.A. Galleries, London, were chosen in consultation with the chairman of the Women's International Art Club (Mrs. Beryl Sinclair), and the exhibition, we are told, provides a welcome opportunity of showing the public in provincial centres the work of contemporary women painters. Miss Cora Gordon is to open the …

"Spanish Sinn Fein" - Jan and Cora comment on parallels between Northern Spain and Ireland, Dublin Evening Telegraph 1923

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I just came across the following note in the Dublin Evening Telegraph of Tuesday 09 January 1923:
SPANISH SINN FEIN: Interest in the Late Lord Mayor of CorkJan and Cora Gordon, the authors of "Poor Folk in Spain" (Lane), say "We do not think that England realised the great interest excited all over the world by the sufferings of the late Mayor of Cork. While his fate hung in the balance people would stop us in the streets of Murcia, or even in the outlying villages, to ask us if we believed that there was a chance of his recovery. He had died shortly before our homeward journey began. The northern parts of Spain see a parallel between their position and that of Ireland. Indeed, the parallel is not exact; rather one might compare them to the position to which Ulster fears to be relegated. The fact remains that Catalonia and the Basque countries, the hard-working, commercial parts of Spain, object to the domination, laxity, and misrule of the Government of Madrid. I believ…

What were Jan and Cora Gordon up to a century ago in 1920?

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1920 was an important year for Jan and Cora Gordon.

The war was over, they had re-established themselves as artists in Paris (though retaining attics in Bloomsbury), and planned a lengthy expedition to sunny southern Europe. Their five month excursion to Spain produced many works of art and a book, "Poor Folk in Spain," initiating the "Two Vagabonds" series which made them famous.

Cora Gordon wrote, "Jan had conceived a passion for the Spanish guitar during the war and was determined to sample the music of this instrument at source .." and visit Spain they then did. The book relates numerous amusing incidents from their time there.

An exhibition of the paintings produced during the time in Spain took place at the Burlington Gallery at the beginning of 1921.

One specific guitar figured strongly in the book. "I have an old guitar. It is a unique instrument, none other like it has ever been seen in Spain" said the man who sold the guitar to Jan (P…

A 1921 Review of Jan and Cora Gordon Exhibition

The Westminster Gazette of Friday 25 February 1921 carries the following review of an exhibition by Jan and Cora Gordon at the Burlington Gallery, London.
JAN AND CORA GORDON. Jan Gordon's book, "A Balkan Freebooter" published some four years ago, was in many ways as interesting an illustrated volume as has appeared since 1914. The drawings of Serbian villages, interiors, and landscape had a blunt symmetry of black-and-white, a crispness of humour that made them memorable. All the greater, then, is the disappointment of finding his paintings of Southern Spain (now showing at the Burlington Galltery, 15, Green-street, Leicester-square) rather confused in colour and design. Maybe black-and-white is his medium: certainly the admirable lithographs, 72 and 74. are the best things in the exhibition—concentrated, sympathetic. the oil-painting.; "Alverca, the Vinegar-Seller " (50), stands out as constructed and luminous. In very few of the others is there more than pain…

Cora Gordon in Belfast 1935 - "Through Europe with a Rucksack"

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Today, I came across a reference to Cora Gordon visiting Belfast and talking about experiences in the Tyrol, Spain, Lapland and Albania. It's in the "Northern Whig and Belfast Post" of Friday 03 May 1935.

She was addressing the Alpha Club (at a luncheon meeting in the Carlton) on the topic of "Through Europe with a Rucksack."

She declared that, "In order to travel successfully things must go wrong, and you must have an utterly inadequate supply of money."

The article records that, "she explained the methods of travel adopted by herself and her famous husband, Jan Gordon. They chose the most out-of-the-way places for exploration and thus avoided that 'tourist' atmosphere. She thought it was good to travel with a job. She and her husband had painting for their job, and on one occasion this brought an amusing honour. Mrs. Gordon was doing a series of illustrations of religious subjects in the Tyrol and gradually she acquired the reputation …