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Jan and Cora Gordon

Jan and Cora Gordon were artists, travelers, writers and musicians; their combined body of work provides a vivid and intimate connection with the Europe of the period from before the First World War to the 1930s.

England 1879 (Cora) - 1906, 1882 (Jan) -1907 (including two years in the Malay Peninsula, 1904-1906)
Paris 1907/8-1914
Serbia 1915
England 1916-1919
Paris 1919-1931
London 1932-1944 (Jan), -1950 (Cora).

A teenage Cora Josephine Turner forced her father, a "respectable man of medicine", to allow her to study art by threatening to go on stage, "an even less respectable profession." Here is a view from her years (1902-1906) at the Slade: . She then succeeded in her father's condition of passing the L.R.E.M. music examination within three months in order to be permitted to leave for France. See:

Meanwhile, Jan Gordon's attempt to launch a mining engineering career on the Malay Peninsular was not a success: ;

Their pre-WW1 existence in Paris is full of fascinating connections with the celebrated artists and poets of that revolutionary time (see for many articles on their famous Bohemian acquaintances, never before deciphered).

In a 1912 issue of The Studio can be found an early reference to the work of Jan Gordon exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris: "Amongst the works by British and American artists in this Salon the most able and sincere were shown by Mr. Jan Gordon, ...."

Jack Bilbo wrote an obituary for Jan in this same magazine 32 years later ( ). “I remember when he and Cora used to sit in my den on Saturday afternoons when the gallery was closed, when we exchanged travel experiences from Spain and Yugoslavia, from Mexico and Scandinavia, or talked about artists and paintings, how the four walls of my little room seemed to move away into far distances.”

Following Jan's death Cora continued to write, paint and give public lectures. "Wearing a silver turban and a black cloak over her white lace blouse and long full velvet skirt, emphasising her pale creamy complexion, and with long slender fingers, she looked every inch the artist." ( ) and see

Two useful biographical essays on the Gordons by K.J. Bryant can be found in "Book and Magazine Collector" (March 1990) and the preface to the 2007 Bene Factum edition of "Two Vagabonds in Languedoc" (he later produced a website which is frustratingly error-prone and missing much of the important source material). A large number (over 200 now) of more recent short essays with abundant original content can be found here: - the major resource for primary information on the couple.
Out patients Serbia 1915, from The Luck of Thirteen. Cora with Colonel Geraldine in southern Spain Jan and Cora Gordon with instruments, 1920s. Jan and Cora Gordon. Author's collection.
Jan and Cora Gordon with their instruments, from the 1931 catalogue of their exhibition at the Twenty One Gallery, London. The Tipsy Dwarf, 1912. Exhibited Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Sketch of W.D.A. Smith by Cora Gordon 1918/1919 A museum of the worthless (On a Paris Roundabout 1927, pg 57)
Epicures in indigence (On a Paris Roundabout Paris 1927) The Gordons' flat at Clanricarde Gardens, London. Spot the Portuguese bull. Jan at home in Clanricarde Gardens, London, painted by Cora. Author's collection. Residences of the Gordons in Paris and London
Jan plays bailiff (Star-dust in Hollywood 1930) Jan Gordon by Howard Coster Cora Gordon by Madame Yevande Photographs of Jan and Cora Gordon from the Sphere, 1932.
Books by the Gordons. Author's collection. Doris Smith's battered old copy of Jan's Step-ladder to Painting, now with the signatures of her great grandchildren inside. Cora Gordon, Glasgow 1948 Clanricarde Gardens, where Jan and Cora Gordon lived after their return from France in 1932.