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Jan and Cora Gordon in England

Jan and Cora Gordon both grew up in England, but moved, separately, to France, as artists, in 1906-8. Jan had been educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire and later, after some time (1904-6) working as a mining engineer in the Malay peninsula ( ), studied art under Frank Brangwyn at the London School of Art (Kensington). Nina Hamnett, his contemporary there during 1907-1908 remembered those days:

Cora Josephine (known as "Jo") was born in Buxton, Derbyshire, was an accomplished musician ( ) and studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art. Some of their early biographical details are summarized in the 1939 edition of "Two Vagabonds in Serbia and Montenegro" ( ) and Ken Bryant's Preface to the 2007 Bene Factum edition of "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc."

Arthur Ransome mentions the Gordons in his Autobiography (p. 129): ‘Miss Turner, who married Jan Gordon the art critic, and with him produced some lively illustrated travel books, came to Coniston for a few days, and on a general walk over to Ambleside put us all to shame by her tree-climbing skill when we had stopped for bread and cheese and beer by the Drunken Duck at Barngates.’

Jan and Cora were married on July 7th 1909 at the Parish Church of Saint Luke, Chelsea.

After the outbreak of WW1 Jan and Cora Gordon joined the Royal Free Hospital relief unit in the Balkans (February 1915). Many adventures (and narrow escapes) later, they returned to England that December and recorded the story in newspaper articles and a book, "The Luck of Thirteen" ( ). They subsequently became close friends with Doris and Ashley Smith (a London dental surgeon) and Jan became Godfather to their son. They made many paintings and drawings of landscapes and people during the war years, including a number of portraits and sketches of the children of Doris and Ashley. Jan's war work included a spell at Rolls-Royce and then a period contributing to the design of ship dazzle patterns ( ; and more recently: ); and An account of a 1917 summer visit to the Smiths at Itchenor can be read here:

When the war ended the Gordons returned to Paris, but from time to time they visited their friends in England and exhibited art. For example in April 1925 they had a show at the London Gallery XXI (Graham Sutherland, who appears in Jan's much later "Art Ain't All Paint", had his first exhibition of drawings and engravings at this gallery this same year). See: .

The Gordons returned to England for good in 1932 (the story is recorded in "The London Roundabout", ), later producing a distinctive series of paintings of London scenes. See also: . My favourite Cora J. Gordon painting dates from this time ( ).

The first four pictures below were made during and just after the First World War (1916 - 1919), the remainder during the 1930s.
Boats and houses, Sussex, probably WW1, by Jan Gordon. Author's collection. Mesylls 1918, by Jan Gordon. Watercolour, author's collection. WDA Smith as a baby, Christmas 1918, by Cora Gordon. Author's collection.
WDA as a baby, Christmas 1918, by Cora Gordon Jan Gordon, Clanricarde Gardens, London, 1930s, painted by Cora Gordon.  Author's collection. Ashley Smith in his favourite chair by Jan Gordon. The chair is currently upholstered in red! Author's collection.
Back in London, flower sellers, 1930s, by Jan Gordon. The family on the right hand side may represent Doris, Pamela and Denis.  New Forest Glade (Savernake Wood), Jan Gordon. This painting was on my bedroom wall as I grew up, and also that of my brother. Clanricarde Gardens, where Jan and Cora Gordon lived after their return from France in 1932.