Cora Josephine Turner and the Slade School of Art

Reading again about Cora Josephine Turner's time at the Slade School of Art ("Edals" in the book) in "A Girl in the Art Class" (1927), I was curious to see if Cora was recorded in their list of alumni. Yes she is, here ranked at number 77. She is recorded here as having been at the school between 1902 and 1906.

Cora Josephine is thinly disguised as "Raymonde Carpenter" in the book, which, as many contemporary reviews noted, was clearly written from life. The dedication is: "To my wife Jo, from whom I have stolen all that I have not stolen from others concerning Raymonde."

The title page displays a quote from Strindburg, "Of young people in the irregular situation that intervenes between the time that they leave their parents' house and the time that they enter one of their very own."

Jan Gordon's approach to disguising characters in his writing changed from using the first letter of the surname plus a dash (see) to the playful nicknames and simple anagrams used in this book. These extend to place names and magazines, with, for example "The Lounger" being used to refer to "The Idler." Further misdirection can be found in a note at the front of the book states that "The principal action in this book takes place during the years 1911 and 1912." In fact, the marriage of the Gordons, which is described at the end of the book, took place on July 7th 1909 at the Parish Church of Saint Luke, Chelsea. The note goes on to state that "None of the characters in the book are meant to be portraits of any living person." However, in addition to the Gordons themselves ("Raymonde Carpenter" and "William Arnold"),  and a good number of correctly named artists, "the Praps" are a very close match to Edward and Clara Steichen and several other pseudonyms can be convincingly deciphered.

The teaching styles at Slade are described as follows: "The teachers, men semi-eminent enough to have made some reputation but little income, were not necessarily gifted as teachers. They began by telling me all that was wrong with my work, in order to make me humble, and they had evolved an effectively unpleasant, but hardly stimulating, method of teaching by sarcasms."

"Raymonde" comments that,"My three years at Lyceum Hall and at Edals were happy ones because I never stopped to think." Later, however, she "was conscious in an unconscious fashion that something had gone wrong with my Art school training. I could not realize that what natural gift I possessed had been overlain by too phlegmatic a mothering, but I did know that what I had got was not what I wanted to get." She resolved to continue her art education in Paris.

In Paris, Cora found that her Slade school style could be recognised from a distance: "During my last year ... I had caught the school style sufficiently well to win a first-class certificate for nude drawing.." A young American in Paris commented "Make a speciality of stomachs don't ya'? Stomach's wonderful, chest not so good, head stuck on more or less, and arms and legs mostly unfinished. Why, I'd recognize one of those Edals' drawings a mile off." Cora ("Raymonde") was not pleased by this observation.


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