Art, Craft & the Fin-de-Siècle: Britain and Russia Part II – The End of Empire: Women Artists in Britain and Russia, 1880-1917

Elena Polenova, Anatomy Students, oil on canvas, 81,5 х 124, Polenovo Museum-Reserve
Elena Polenova, Anatomy Students, oil on canvas, 81,5 х 124, Polenovo Museum-Reserve

Friday, 9 January 2015
The Courtauld Institute of Art, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre
Ticket/entry details: £12 (£7 students, Courtauld staff/students and concessions) Organised by: Dr Natalia Murray (The Courtauld) and Louise Hardiman (University of Cambridge)

In the second half of the 19th century women became dominant players in the art scene in both Britain and Russia. At the turn of 19-20 centuries women in both countries became prominent as progressive sculptors, applied artists and painters. Women’s patronage of the arts was also especially strong at the time – they opened art schools and studios as well as art academies and galleries.

Our conference will look at the aspects of women’s artistic practice in Britain and in Russia at the fin-de-siècle. It has been inspired by the exhibition ‘A Russian Fairy-Tale: The Art and Craft of Elena Polenova’ (Watts Gallery, 15 November 2014 – 8 February 2015), which intends to draw attention to the important role played by women in rural areas within the Arts and Crafts Movement and also as educators and agents of social change. Mary Seton Watts (1849-1938), the second wife of British artist G.F. Watts, and Elena Polenova (1850-1898), the younger sister of Russian artist Vasily Polenov, were almost exact contemporaries.  Both women trained as painters, but became leading artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement in their respective countries. Each woman also coupled her artistic talents with a desire to bring about dramatic and lasting transformations in their local communities.

Recognition of the role of women artists is long overdue, and the interesting parallels between their changing place in society will provide the opportunity for a compelling and engrossing discussion at the conference.

The conference programme is now available: Download Conference Programme

Book online: Or send a cheque made payable to ‘The Courtauld Institute of Art’ to: Research Forum Events Co-ordinator, Research Forum, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, stating ‘Britain and Russia Arts and Crafts’. For further information, email