Showing posts from September, 2014

Jan and Cora Gordon with Myron Nutting in Paris and New York (1927)

Amongst the numerous artistic acquaintances of Jan and Cora Gordon in Paris in the 1920s were Mr. and Mrs. Myron Chester Nutting. Myron Nutting (1890-1972) was a painter who studied at the Académie Julian (the school at which Jan Gordon had initially registered in Paris) under André Lhote and the University of Paris under Maurice Denis. He was a friend of James Joyce and painted portraits of Joyce's wife and daughter in the early 1920s.

in 1966 Myron Nutting remembered Jan and Cora Gordon as among the friends in Paris that they enjoyed the most, "because they were really good fun ... and also were highly cultivated people with interests in all sorts of things. They were good musicians. He was well educated and could discuss any subject, and he saw the humor of life."

"They were not producing anything of any vast importance but they enjoyed doing their work, which was writing. They made their living with their books, and every year they got out a travel book. Also h…

Jan and Cora Gordon with the Italian Futurists in pre-WW1 Paris

Jan and Cora Gordon are not readily apparent in French accounts of the creative Bohemian artistic culture in the years before WW1. They were certainly active participants though and Jan Gordon had the benefit of direct knowledge of many of the emerging artists of that time in preparing his volume "Modern French Painters" (1923).

Cafe gatherings of Bohemian intellectuals are recorded in a number of sources and amongst the diversity of characters were included members of the Italian Futurist Movement. Jan Gordon writes the following on Futurism in "Modern French Painters" (1923):
"Although Futurism was a literary, patriotic, and sentimental Italian creed which added nothing to art, it was right in its insistence that we depend too much upon picture galleries."

A 1916 account of the pre-WW1 Bohemian community (in "The New Witness") mentions a gathering in a Paris cafe of artists and writers of the time, two of which were futurists.

"There was …

Jan Gordon on the Preston Harrison Collection of Modern French Art

Jan Gordon's introduction to The Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Gallery of Modern French Art is a rarely seen work, published in 1929. It is listed in a bibliography of Jan Gordon issued during the memorial exhibition following his death in 1944, but is missing from subsequent summaries of his publications, with one exception.

The Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Gallery of Modern French Art, Jan Gordon (1929)

The brief biography of Jan Gordon (not entirely accurate) in the book is as follows:

"Born in England, has been a resident of Paris for over a quarter of a century. Well-known as a painter and illustrator, he is also a distinguished traveler, lecturer, author, and critic. His book, Modern French Painters (Dodd, Mead and Company publication), is generally recognized as one of the best treatises on Modern Art."

On Modern Art, Jan Gordon comments that, "Even today in the States there are few opportunities of studying this recent growth in Art. Few pub…

Jan and Cora Gordon and the Prince of Poets: Tuesday Evenings at the Closerie des Lilas

Francis Carco's "The Last Bohemia" (1928) provides a vivid account of Tuesday evenings at the Closerie des Lilas in the pre-WW1 years, events at which Jan and Cora Gordon were also present:

".. the Closerie des Lilas where we assembled beside Paul Fort on Tuesdays, in an indescribable uproar mixed with the shouts of the poets. It was a magnificent period. We drank. There were arguments. One added one's saucers to one's neighbours without any shame whatsoever and jumped at once into the discussion, taking sides ..."
"Paul Fort's long hair, his sombrero, his black tie, his small coat buttoned right to the top, his simplicity, stood in contrast to the ornaments which women of all races, Swedes, Russians, Spaniards flaunted here and there under our eyes."

"Time after time, bucolic, idyllic, familiar, gallic, inventive, spirited and imaginative, Paul Fort enchanted us with his small tremulous voice."

Paul Fort by Jean Veber (Wikimedi…

Jan and Cora Gordon with Marie Laurencin in pre-WW1 Paris

In Jan Gordon's 1916 short article about pre-WW1 gatherings of Bohemian artists (himself and Cora Gordon included!) in Paris, there is a mention of "by no means least", Mlle. L--, "demure Normand, a governess, prim, modest, middle-aged during the daytime; but at night marvellously altered by a slight rake of the hat, and with a talent for brilliant repartee."

This was Marie Laurencin (1883-1956), whose mother was from Normandy. Her self portraits do suggest an air of prim modesty. One biography also observes that "it is difficult to envision the primly dressed, bourgeois-mannered young woman as an intimate of the aggressive, boisterous male artists and writers who comprised the inner sanctum of Pablo Picasso's studio, the Bateau-Lavoir, on the rue Ravignan in Montmartre." She was the only female artist associated with, and accepted by, the male-dominated, exclusive avant-garde art movements in early 20th-century Paris.

Her friend, the poet André …

Jan and Cora Gordon: Re-encountering Gluck in London, 1931

Hannah Gluckstein (1895 – 1978), a talented and unconventional English painter known simply as Gluck, had met Jan and Cora Gordon during the First World War, most probably in either Cornwall or London.

Gluck (right) with Nesta Obermer in "Medallion", 1936 (Wikimedia Commons, modified).
After attending classes at the St John's Wood School of Art (1913-1916), she practised art at Lamorna, Cornwall from 1916, with the community known as the Newlyn School. The focus was on naturalistic painting in a pure setting emphasising natural light. "Her flight to Lamorna was the making of her, as a painter and a rebel" writes Diana Souhami in "Gluck" (1988). Cora Gordon published a woodcut of Sennen Cove from this area in the 1920 edition of The Apple and Jan Gordon published a painting made from the hillside above Sennen Cove that same year.

Pictures of Sennen Cove, Cornwall by Jan and Cora Gordon 
Jan Gordon had been a fellow student with Annie Fearon (1877-1965…

Jan Gordon: "Emotion" in Painting

A drawing in the "Emotion" chapter of "A Stepladder to Painting" (1934) by Jan Gordon looked familiar.

The accompanying text is as follows:

"Let us imagine that you actually saw your miners returning home in the broad sunlight. Now the question is: are you going to stick to the simple problem of the miners' fatigue, their desire for rest, and their exhaustion, or are you going to give expression to the irony of the men coming out of the darkness to be welcomed by the sunlight which they cannot really enjoy? If you choose to paint them in the full sunlight you will be unable to give an expression at its most poignant of their fatigue. But you can paint them powerfully thus, if your intention is more ironical.
Only then you will have altered your emotional angle, and your colour scheme must be changed to suit. Or you may combine the moods and paint your miners dark and tired, massed against the ironical sunlight."

Where was it I had I seen this image o…

Jan and Cora Gordon: An Encounter with Édouard de Max

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. "…

Jan and Cora Gordon: Who was "K"?

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 convinced th…