New Book | Women Artists in the Reign of Catherine the Great

Posted in books by Editor on February 25, 2023

From Lund Humphries:

Rosalind P. Blakesley, Women Artists in the Reign of Catherine the Great (London: Lund Humphries Publishers, 2023), 152 pages, ISBN: 978-1848225459, £45.

Book coverCatherine the Great’s audacious power grab in 1762 marked a watershed in imperial Russian history. During a momentous 34-year reign, her rapacious vision and intellectual curiosity led to vast territorial expansion, cultural advancement, and civic, educational and social reform. In this pioneering book, Rosalind Blakesley reveals the remarkable role women artists played in her pursuit of these ambitions. With challenging commissions for an elite cast of Russian patrons, their work underscores the extent to which cultural enrichment co-existed with the empress’s imperial designs.

Catherine’s acquisitions propelled renowned artists to new heights. The history paintings that she purchased from Angelica Kauffman brought the Swiss artist to the attention of keen new patrons, while Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun found in Russia safe refuge from the horrors of revolutionary France. Just as important were Catherine’s relationships with lesser-known artists. The young sculptor Marie-Anne Collot made the arduous journey from Paris to St Petersburg to assist on the equestrian monument to Peter the Great and enthralled Russian society with her portrait busts, while Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna, wife of Catherine’s troubled son Paul, sculpted cameos which the empress sent to distinguished correspondents abroad. With stories of extraordinary artistic endeavour intertwined with the intrigue of Catherine’s personal life, Women Artists in the Reign of Catherine the Great uncovers the impact of these and other artists at one of Europe’s most elaborate courts.

Rosalind Polly Blakesley, a prize-winning writer and academic, is Professor of Russian and European Art and a Fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge. A Trustee of the V&A and Syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum, she has authored books including The Russian Canvas (Yale University Press, 2016) and The Arts and Crafts Movement (Phaidon Press, 2006), and curated exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC.


Conventions and Abbreviations

1  Inscribing a Future Empress
2  Catherine Enthroned
3  The Academy and the Hermitage
4  A Parisian Find
5  The Chisel and the Mallet
6  Unexpected Treasures
7  The Doyenne of Rome
8  An Artist in the Family
9  The Triumphant Refugee

List of Illustrations

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