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 examples (but the only one I have with me at the moment to photograph). It shows a classic Sussex scene such as the Gordons would have seen on their wartime holidays with Doris and Ashley Smith at Itchenor.

Much later, in 1933, Jan Gordon advocated the use of such a thumb- or pochade- box in "The Artist" magazine and provided a sketch to illustrate its use. He wrote, "Excellent work may be done with this, particularly small, swift colour notes. It has been brilliantly used by Augustus John, R.A."

My father had also used this technique, inspired by Jan Gordon, and some small landscapes painted in this way  can be seen above the fireplace in this photo.


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