Saturday, 19 December 2015

Hilda May Gordon, a colorist abroad.

Hilda May Gordon

British archaeologist and painter.

She studied under Frank Brangwyn (1866-1956) and Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914) at the Bushy School of Art and joined Brangwyn on a painting trip to Italy in 1900. 

A significant part of her paintings consists of tens of aquarelles painted in Palestine around the year 1900. 

Although inspired by the Orientalist academic trend, some individual shades can be traced in Hilda May Gordon's small paintings, in particular her tendency towards the light cloudy shade, and her remote view which is always one of a curious but cautious tourist. 

She set off travelling for a few months in 1922 and ended up going on a trip around the world, which lasted six years. During this time she visited India, Kashmir, Tibet, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Japan and produced a large body of watercolour paintings - the product of her keen ability to render people and the atmosphere of exotic places in colourful compositions.

The expression on the face of this cute baby Orang Oetang (she saw probably while in Indonesia) instantly reminded me of two woodcuts by Dutch artist Theo Dijkwel (1881-1952) who in London had been a student of pre-Raphaelite painter Arthur Hughes (1832-1915). Dijkwel isn't very well known and there aren't many examples of his work to be found but most of his prints I know are about animals and show, besides skill, a keen observer and a very sensitive artist. His subject will have lived in Amsterdam Artis-Zoo   


I love to read about adventurous women artists instead of marrying and having a husband and a family traveling the world and leaving us accounts and pictures of the world they engaged.  

Hilda May Gordon was such an adventurous artist and I only happened to discover her stumbling over these recent Ebay offers of woodcut prints not mentioned anywhere before (as far as I know). Because there were several  copies they also learned she happily experimented with colors

Heaven knows where they came from but I could not resist having a try keeping at least 3 copies of her unsigned (African) woodcut prints together. 

All other pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 


  1. The Martyn Gregory Gallery issued a 1987 monograph called "Hilda May Gordon (1874-1972): A Colorist Abroad" by Patrick Conner. Based largely on Gordon's unpublished journals, it details her travels around the world in 1920s and is illustrated by her paintings. The Martyn Gregory Gallery also had an earlier exhibition of her paintings in 1984.

    I've found no evidence that she made any woodblock prints based on her trip to Asia. Indeed, the only woodblock prints of Gordon's that I've ever encountered are the three African scenes that Gerrie shows above.

  2. Thank you Darrel, wouldn't it be nice if some-one would prove me wrong and find more examples ? They are rather "crude" but confidently executed prints and historically interesting enough to keep them together I thought.

  3. U.S. eBay seller hessfineauctions will be selling an Asian subject Hilda Gordon gouache portrait painting, titled and exhibited in 1929 at the Fine Art Society, Bond St., London (with original exhibition label), starting at 99 cents with no reserve, likely within a couple of days or weeks.--Hess Staffer