Browsing old editions of Gil Blas, I came across this note about the opening of an exhibition by Jan and Cora Gordon at the Galerie Henri Manuel, at 9:00 pm on the 2nd of December 1913.
The note states that this would be the second exhibition by the Gordons at the gallery. The first was in March 1913 (L'Homme Libre, July 18th 1913).
Jan Gordon would be exhibiting paintings and watercolours, whereas Cora Gordon would show paintings, etchings and decorated fans.
I had previously found a review of this show in L'Homme Libre, dated December 6th 1913.
Very enjoyably, this notice and the review link to the "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM" piece by Jan Gordon, published in Blackwood's, March 1929, under his "Salis" pseudonym. I had deciphered "M" in that story as Henri Manuel and "de M" as the famous Édouard de Max (I noticed that Ken Bryant was quick to pick up on the information, without acknowledgement).
The note in Gil Blas mentions that André Salmon would give a talk on the contemporary art movement. Salmon is the "S" in another early piece by Jan Gordon under the Salis pseudonym. He wrote: "S-, with the unconscious poise of a Nijinsky, waving long, lean hands with incredible grace, led the choruses." This was at one of the celebrated evenings with Paul Fort at the Closerie des Lilas.
As so vividly described in "GRADUS AD ... MONTPARNASSUM", the December 1913 exhibition coincided with a dramatic ministerial crisis in the government of the time. That account contains, as I have shown, numerous historically verifiable elements, but, as Bruce Chatwin once gently warned, "the fictional process" may have been at work, even if only subtly. The two Galerie Manuel shows appear to have been conflated into one and the first London exhibition, which takes place after the Paris shows in the story, actually took place some months earlier, at the end of the year before. André Salmon wrote a catalogue preface at the first Paris exhibition and spoke at the second, but is inconsistent with much of the description of "K," who takes this role in the story (Carco being a much closer match). In the article, "K" was "the author of one slim book of verse in praise of opium dreams," this being consistent with Carco's 1911 volume,"Instincts", whereas his friend Salmon had published numerous works by 1913. "K" thus seems to be a conflation of Salmon and Carco and this may be the explanation for this rare exception to Jan Gordon's practice of representing individuals by the first letter of their surnames (e.g. "De M" for De Max and "M" for Manuel in this story and numerous other consistent cases in his early writings). Presumably Jan Gordon was more concerned to disguise the identity of Salmon through the blending of biographical details and use of a misguiding initial. Given that the "Gradus ... Ad .." story was published about sixteen years after the events described, the small blurrings in the timing of events and characteristics of individuals are hardly surprising.
For a summary of other early exhibitions by the Gordons see here.
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Jan and Cora Gordon visited Albania in the summer of 1925 and in 1927 published the book " Two Vagabonds in Albania ." Two phrases from this book resonated when I first read it: " Now and again a wolf howled from far away, and somewhere a kid, lost or smelling some wolf-taint in the air, bleated with persistent terror " pg. 138. and " As we came down into the cultivated fields of the valley we found ourselves walking through clouds of red-winged grasshoppers, which sprang up on all sides with a clattering flight ." pg. 139 The book begins with "Don't stay in Durazzo." From Durazzo they made a clockwise loop to the south, passing through Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Kelcyre, Permeti and Gjinokastro before returning north to Tirana. The second leg of the journey was an excursion to the north, from Scutari up into the mountains. Map of prominent places visited on the southern loop described in "Two Vagabonds in Albania"
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 c
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