Ezra Pound on Jan Gordon's War Paintings, 1920

In "The New Age," January 1st, 1920, Ezra Pound (American modernist poet and critic) writes (as "B.H. Dias"), on an exhibition of "The Nation's War Paintings and Other Records, Imperial War Museum." He gives Jan Gordon special mention for achieving the feel of war.

"Jan Gordon's 374 looks as if it were by the same hand as 377, but it has the atmosphere of its subject, possibly attained by the masks on the operators; yet there are bandages in 377, and the feeling of eeriness, of the uncanny and unusual could as well have been produced by bandages as by masks. No, the first real demarcation we find in this show, apart from differences of "school," is just this question of getting the feel of war, the feel of the evil and uncanny: some of the pictures are full of it, others are just attempts to evade the issue; to pass off what might have been an old landscape painted in 1898 for a fulfilment of the nation's commission to paint a picture of war."

Four paintings, three in the Wellcome Library and one in the Imperial War Museum, are candidates to be the work under discussion above.

An operating theatre in a hospital ship. Oil on wood , 15.1 x 21.6 cm. Collection: Wellcome Library. This painting was possibly executed during the Battle of Jutland, May 1916. The artist was commissioned to paint the sailors wounded in that battle, on HMS 'Castor', and a finished painting by him of that ship is in the Imperial War Museum.

An Operation in a Light Cruiser. Oil on canvas, 76 x 102 cm. Collection: Wellcome Library.

Action Operating Theatre in a Battleship. Oil on canvas, 101.5 x 121.5 cm. Collection: Wellcome Library.

The Dressing Station in a Man-of-War. Date painted: c.1918–1919. Oil on panel, 44.4 x 35.5 cm
Collection: IWM (Imperial War Museums).


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