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Mary Watts and Elena Polenova: Kindred Spirits of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Anson, B; (2013) Mary Watts and Elena Polenova: Kindred Spirits of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Slovo , 25 (1) pp. 3-30. Green open access


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This article studies two important women of the Arts and Crafts Movement during the late nineteenth century, the Scottish artist Mary Watts and the Russian artist Elena Polenova, and considers similarities in their lives and works which have never before been observed. Though starting their careers in remote locations and cultures, their personal philosophies and conse-quent artistic choices brought about a striking convergence in their lives, culminating in the mu-tuality, not just of creative output, but also of direct personal links and acquaintances. Starting with a broad consideration of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the paper locates the women within their respective national movements and notes shared elements within Brit-ish and Russian Arts and Crafts ideologies. The article then addresses the role played in the women’s thinking by the distinguished artistic networks into which they were linked. By exten-sion, the study then considers the channels and degree of contact, influence and artistic ex-change between different national groups and the extent to which the women can be said to have participated in a broad international movement. The paper reveals just how close the two women came to personal acquaintance. The tragic early death of Elena Polenova, the rise of the Russian avant-garde, and the Soviet art historical bias against her artistic movement, on the one hand, and Mary Watts’s widowhood, subsequent career divergence, and the rise of British modernism on the other, combined to foreshorten their artistic careers and obscure their legacy for much of the twentieth century. Research for this project has brought about discussions be-tween the English and Russian curators of Mary Watts and Elena Polenova’s legacies towards a range of future collaborative enterprises.

Type: Article
Title: Mary Watts and Elena Polenova: Kindred Spirits of the Arts and Crafts Movement
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://ojs.lib.ucl.ac.uk/index.php/Slovo/article/v...
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Under the terms of this license, you are allowed to build upon this work non-commercially, but must give the original author credit and license your new creation under the identical terms. To view a full copy of this license, visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1387978
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