Paintings by Jan and Cora Gordon in Glasgow

I took a trip across to the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre today and was shown the paintings by Jan and Cora Gordon held there. The two by Jan Gordon date from the Gordons' Spanish journeys of the early 1920s. One by Cora Gordon dates from their "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc" (1925) journey.

My favourite of the three is "The Gypsy Singer," partly because I have an etching of the same scene and partly because the context is colourfully described in one of the Gordons' books, "Misadventures with a Donkey" (1924). The scene is set in Puerto Lumbreras (south-east Spain), where Paco, the chief of police, plays guitar at José’s place. A character called Pepe Macho was "perched on a superior packing-case high above us”. Gordon also noted a decoration on the wall: “some wandering sign-painter had depicted clumsily enough the figure of a semi-nude woman running with a bottle in her hands, her body wrapped round with a flag to advertise some popular brand of anisado.” The anisado lady is shown in the etching of this scene, but has been removed from the large painted version in Glasgow.

"The Gypsy Singer" by Jan Gordon, at the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre.

"The Watermelon Guzzlers" is a more fictitious composition, which also exists in etching form. The significance of this one lies in its appearance, as frontispiece, in the book "The London Roundabout," where it is described as the favourite picture of "Telephones," the man who set up the telephones in the Gordons' Clanricarde Gardens flat. Jan Gordon's response to Telephone's apologetic approvals was as follows: ""Any artist will always excuse you for liking his pictures," I retorted, laughing." ("The London Roundabout", page 80). The story of the Gordons' relocation from Paris to London is told here.

The Cora Gordon painting is a landscape, "The Village on the Hills." This is actually a view over Najac on its ridge above the Aveyron River. The beauty these days of Google earth is that viewpoints can be found to approximately match where old images were once made. Here below is one that shows the view from below the Najac Castle, overlooking the town laid out along its ridge to the east.

Google earth view of the town of Najac from the vicinity of the castle at the top of the hill. A painting of the view in the opposite direction, from town up towards castle, can be seen here.

There is another picture by Cora Gordon of Najac, in the Edinburgh University collection ("The Castle, Najac"). This one shows a rather gloomy view from the base of the castle hill (to the left in the image below) looking towards the East.

All four of the paintings discussed above can be seen on the BBC "Your Paintings" site.

Many thanks to John Yates and colleagues for their cheerful and professional help! The Glasgow Museum Resource Centre  is an impressively well-organized facility with a welcoming approach and I highly recommend a visit.

P.S. Seeing "The Gypsy Singer" reminded me of listening to flamenco in Almeria. This evening, taking advantage of our temporary stranding in Scotland, we watched Ricardo Garcia's very enjoyable flamenco show at the Fringe.


  1. There is an interesting post on Mrs Carola Yapp who donated the three paintings discussed above in October 1950:


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