Showing posts from October, 2014

Jan and Cora Gordon with Andre Salmon in pre-WW1 Paris

An evocative reminiscence by Jan Gordon in "Three lands on Three Wheels" refers to the "Closerie des Lilas where before the War we used to make merry on Tuesday nights withPaul Fort, André Salmon, Picasso and all the lights and lesser lights of the Modern Art Movement." Jan Gordon describes André Salmon (1881-1969) on one of these evenings as follows: "S-, with the unconscious poise of a Nijinsky, waving long, lean hands with incredible grace, led the choruses."

Francis Carco in "The Last Bohemia" (1928) wrote: "We admired André Salmon; he was celebrated. Poet, writer, art critic, his gifts awed us. As for his clothes, cut out of material with large checks, and his small hat perched on top of his head, no one could wear them as he did. They were part of his esthetic baggage, his programme, his own idea, and beside Paul Fort, dressed all in black, they opposed the theory of free verse, and other uncommon rhythms. That was obvious. Salmon par…

Jan and Cora Gordon with Rainer Maria Rilke in pre-WW1 Paris

The poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was known for the intensity and mystical nature of his writing. He attended the famous pre-WW1 Tuesday evening talks at the Closerie des Lilas in Paris and is probably the individual described by Jan Gordon (under pseudonym John Salis in "The New Witness")  as "M- Austrian, heavy-souled and a seeker".

Rainer Maria Rilke painted in 1906 by Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907)  (Wikimedia commons, modified)
It wasn't all friendly artistic discussion at the Closerie des Lilas and "Ecrire le Sport" (Bordeaux 2005) mentions an incident in which Rilke takes a beating from a boxer outside the famous cafe. Francis Carco (1928) mentions a similar event: "Also there was a splendid fight, at the end of which a boxer belonging to the Prince's [Paul Fort's] following literally stunned me and threw me out. What an adventure! Lying on the pavement with blackened eyes, my right ankle dislocated, I came …

Jan and Cora Gordon and the XXI Gallery, London

Jan and Cora Gordon exhibited in the XXI Gallery in 1925, as noted in the diary of Ashley Smith. Their private view was on the 12th February of that year.

The gallery name derives from the original address of 21 York Buildings, Adelphi (a district of the City of Westminster in London). A move was later made to Durham House Street, Adelphi, just off the strand, near Waterloo Bridge. Since 1926 the Twenty-one Gallery has been housed at 15 Mill Street, London, W1.

The XXI Gallery, London (modified from a copy made by Harland, P.T. from a clipping dated about 1930)

"Throughout the year, exhibitions of the greatest interest are held at the Gallery. Mrs. Bernhard-Smith has been particularly successful in securing the co-operation of some of the leading workers of the day, for Jacob Epstein was one of the first to exhibit there, and later an exhibition of the work of that great Serbian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, was arranged. Most of the exhibitions are of a single artist's work, and …

Early Jan Gordon Paintings on Wooden Panels

In "A Girl in the Art Class" Jan Gordon describes how, after a disappointing first encounter with an art school (Julian's), he had "been persuaded to buy a thumb sketching box for oils."

"It was a beautiful little apparatus made by Reeves. It carried two very thin wooden panels and a palette with paints all set out and was no bigger or thicker than a sketch book. The panels measured about five inches by six. The charm of the Luxembourg gardens had from the first attracted me, and one autumn day, taking my sketch box with me, I tried a small sketch direct from nature in the Gardens."

Later, when Cora visited Jan' Gordon's place Cora sat in his only chair while Jan showed her his work, "40-odd oil paintings on very thin wooden panels about five by six inches."

Here below is the front and back of one such painting on a wooden panel by Jan Gordon. It measures 220 mm by 153 mm (8.6 by 6 inches), so a little larger than those early exampl…

Jan and Cora Gordon with the Wallins in pre-WW1 Paris

Jan Gordon, recalling Paul Fort's Tuesday night Parisian cafe gatherings of intellectuals in the period 1911-1913 wrote, "there was Madame W-, a Scandinavian masseuse with white hair and the carriage of an empress, advocate of the married state, loved by everyone; her husband sculptor and dude, who was addicted to collars so tall that he wounded himself in the neck upon their points and was forced for some time to go about smothered in bandages."

Madame W- must surely be Elin Wallin (1884-1969) who lived in Paris with husband David from 1910-1913 at 43 Rue de l’Abbé Grégoire in Montparnasse-Luxembourg. I can picture her "carriage of an empress" and promotion of the married state (she and her husband became parents of seven children between 1906 and 1924). Her hair does not seem to be exactly white, however, and I can find no record of her skills as a masseuse.

Elin Wallin, Paris 1906, oil painting by David Wallin (Wikimedia Commons, modified)
Marriage of Elin a…

Jan and Cora Gordon with Fritz Vanderpyl in Paris

Art critic and writer M. Fritz Vanderpyl is thanked in the introduction to Jan Gordon's "Modern French Paintings" (1923) for "valuable information and the loan of publications which are now difficult to find." He was a friend of the Gordons during the 1920s and earlier.

The dedication to "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc" also cites Vanderpyl and his wife:

Dedication to "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc" (1925), or "Two Vagabonds in a French Village" in the US edition.

Fritz R. Vanderpyl (1876-1965) was a Belgian or Dutch (depending on source), later naturalized French, avant-garde poet, novelist and art critic (for the "Petit Parisien"). He knew Maurice Vlaminck (as part of the Fauves group), James Joyce and Ezra Pound (Terrell 1980). In a letter to John Quinn he once wrote, "I then mixed all kinds of languages in my verses .... In those d…

Jan and Cora Gordon: Coney Island and a German Bohemia

At the beginning of their 1927 adventure in the USA Jan and Cora Gordon visit Coney Island, New York ("On Wandering Wheels"). They remembered their first meeting with a Coney Islander, in Munich before the war. This tattooed German-American gentleman (born in a suburb of Hamburg) was a professional impersonator of wild men, a Cherokee in his Coney Island role, and a well known wrestler in his day.

The old sheik at Coney Island (1927) from "On Wandering Wheels" (1929).
In those pre-war times Jan and Cora Gordon had been living, together with their artist friend Bertram Hartman, in a "crazy pension, where congregated the Bohemia of Munich." "Art students, decorators, poets, philosophers, doctors of law and science, even a rapscallion Dalmatian priest, were included in its varied catalogue. Great men, such as Rhoda Rhoda the columnist, Michel the poet, Pascin, then an illustrator on Jugend, and the editors of Munich's witty press, did not disdain t…