LifeArtEarth developed into a strangely eclectic mix of family history, natural history and art (in particular that of Jan and Cora Gordon) so, in search of a little more order, I'm gathering all of the art posts into a single thread. This was the first of those posts.
On April 4th 2010 I was busy with a house move when a book, “The London Roundabout” by Jan and Cora Gordon (published in 1933), arrived in the post. The book is described as "a roundabout trip of London, where one may catch glimpses of the four quarters of London, glimpses hurried and unsatisfying, yet containing something of that peculiar wholeness that makes up London."
Taking a break from moving boxes, opening them up and deciding where things should go, I began to read, and was struck by a series of parallels. The book begins with a house move as the Gordons return to London from Paris. At the time of their move Jan Gordon was the same age as me. Both they and I were rediscovering old treasures as we unpacked. Both the Gordons and I had spent 20 years living abroad prior to this move (though they had returned to England during the later war years).
The Gordons had moved into a flat in Clanricarde Gardens and from there wrote books and articles, painted a distinctive series of London scenes, and played their guitars. Jan died here in 1944 and Jack Bilbo wrote a moving obituary in "The Studio".
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Jan and Cora Gordon visited Albania in the summer of 1925 and in 1927 published the book " Two Vagabonds in Albania ." Two phrases from this book resonated when I first read it: " Now and again a wolf howled from far away, and somewhere a kid, lost or smelling some wolf-taint in the air, bleated with persistent terror " pg. 138. and " As we came down into the cultivated fields of the valley we found ourselves walking through clouds of red-winged grasshoppers, which sprang up on all sides with a clattering flight ." pg. 139 The book begins with "Don't stay in Durazzo." From Durazzo they made a clockwise loop to the south, passing through Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Kelcyre, Permeti and Gjinokastro before returning north to Tirana. The second leg of the journey was an excursion to the north, from Scutari up into the mountains. Map of prominent places visited on the southern loop described in "Two Vagabonds in Albania"
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, rereading Jan Gordon 's " GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM " (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) I wondered who the character known only as "K" might be. The text states that, "K --- has since climbed to eminence, the button of the legion of honour, the front page of a great daily, poems in profusion, and a number of plays; but in those days he clung to a paper which hung on the edge of bankruptcy, and was the author of one slim book of verse in praise of opium dreams, a long way after Baudelaire." "K" chose Jan and Cora Gordon to exhibit their work at the art gallery of a fashionable photographer he "had been of service to", referred to in the text as "M". The show "was noticed favourably" and Cora sold (to a diplomat, perhaps Paul Morand ) "a big exuberant drawing in colour of the Cleopatra-cum-anachronism period." Jan Gordon was not c
During the second of the Paris art shows described in Jan Gordon's "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" (Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym) a lady poetess "swore that De M---, the great French actor, must see Claribel's [Cora Gordon's] drawings. But, alas! De M--- was in bed." The poetess took Cora in a cab to see the actor, along with the more exotic and esoteric of her drawings (according to Jan Gordon, Cora's designs were "mostly of semi-nude dancers making arabesques of themselves to a counter rhythm of draperies and cats.") Left in an antechamber, she found herself "in the midst of a weird collection", every piece in the crowded assemblage "picked for some sinister or erotic quality." "At intervals a creaking voice uttered French words of considerable impropriety" - this was a parrot. Behind a curtain was a bathroom in which the bath was scooped in the black marble floor. &qu