Jan and Cora Gordon exhibition at Galerie Henri Manuel, December 2nd 1913

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.


  1. Here's a thought: with the character "K" being a conflation of Carco and Salmon, which letter lies equidistant in the alphabet between C and S? You've guessed it - K! Perhaps this is not a coincidence!


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