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) at the London School of Art (she was later another member of the Newlyn Group) and the Gordons later stayed with her and husband Nicolo Bernard "Ber" Walke at St Hilary.

A drawing of Gluck by A.J. Munnings in 1916 gives her a gypsy look, with long loose hair, but a ca. 1924 photograph by Howard Coster, "Photographer of Men" shows her transformation to her new persona, dressed in male clothes and with short hair. 1924 was the year of her first show at the Dorien Leigh Gallery in South Kensington. In 1926 Gluck had a major solo exhibition, "Stage and Country", a reflection of her two worlds (London and Cornwall), at the London Fine Art Society in Bond Street.

In March 1931, after a gap of "umpteen" years (fifteen according to Ashley Smith), she and the Gordons met again at the London house of Doris and Ashley Smith. According to Smith (in his diaries), during that interval Gluck had "become a very charming woman of savoir-faire." Ashley's tone is perhaps a little patronising: "The result was amusing. The Gordons found themselves listening to Gluck."

Ashley's diary comments about Cora Gordon had become increasingly irritated in tone during the 1920s and early 1930s and the absence of any further mentions of Jan and Cora Gordon after 1932 can probably be attributed to a drifting apart of the two couples. "The London Roundabout" makes no direct reference to Doris and Ashley, though there is a passing note on the visit of the "Master Fiddler of Sweden", in which they were very much involved, and also a reference to "The new cook". Doris, under pseudonym Catherine Ives, had published "When the Cook is Away" in 1928.


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