The Colour of Spain by Jan Gordon 1921
Delightfully for me, the first picture shown in the article, "La Rambla" by Cora Gordon, is of a painting that currently hangs on one of our walls. It successfully evokes the heat and sunlight of southern Spain. The Gordons recorded their impressions of southern Spain in two very enjoyable books, ""Poor Folk in Spain" (1922) and "Misadventures with a Donkey" (1924).
In the article, Jan Gordon considers Spain to be a painter's paradise, though not without its difficulties.
He writes, "To the painter, as human being, Spain has serious defects." These included prickly heat, thirst and the effects of drinking "water none too pure" and, "Old Father Sol drives away the man where the artist would linger."
He adds that, "Dust, flies, vermin, and a courteous but over talkative population, add to the painter's distractions, amongst which the remote chance of accidentally picking up a scorpion instead of a fallen palette knife may be overlooked."
What makes Spain so fruitful for the painter depends ".. first upon the natural properties of the land and secondarily on the qualities of the Spanish atmosphere."
Gordon concludes with, "In the air hangs no moisture to absorb colouration or soften contours. For this reason Spanish colouration has a crisp quality almost unknown in other parts of Europe. A Spanish landscape is a mosaic of rich and vivid hues even to crimson shadows ; and not, as an English landscape would be, an infinitude of grey gradations."
Elsewhere in this issue of the magazine, there is an advertisement for the exhibition of paintings of Spain at the Burlington Gallery. There were mixed reviews, including one expressing disappointment at finding Jan Gordon's paintings of Southern Spain "rather confused in colour and design." The review went on, "Maybe black-and-white is his medium: certainly the admirable lithographs .. are the best things in the exhibition—concentrated, sympathetic. The oil-painting, "Alverca, the Vinegar-Seller" stands out as constructed and luminous. In very few of the others is there more than painted sunlight. All the time one feels the artist in Jan Gordon struggling for coherence; only too seldom does he achieve it." The reviewer also commented on the works by Cora Gordon in the same exhibition, "Her landscapes are commonplace, and, because one feels they are content to be so, their success is more complete than that of the man's work. There can be no doubt, however, that of the two Jan Gordon in failure is finer than Mrs. Gordon in achievement."
Grateful thanks to Sophie Smith of York Public Library for her kind help in retrieving this article.
Previous posts on the Gordons in Spain
Jan and Cora Gordon "Painting under Difficulties" 1922 Spain December 9 2017
"Two Happy Vagabonds" - Pall Mall Gazzette 1922 February 4 2018
A 1921 Review of Jan and Cora Gordon Exhibition February 9 2020