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A russian Fairy Tale, the art and craft of Elena Polenova

Edited by Natalia Murray

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Watts Gallery, 2014, 128 p.

The artistic reputation of Elena Polenova (1850-1898), the younger sister of one of the most famous Russian artist Vasily Polenov, has remained little known for much of the 20th century.  However, in recent years her legacy has begun to attract more attention.  A large exhibition of Polenova’s works took place in Moscow in 2011/12, the first since 1903. Examples of her work have been included in more broadly-themed exhibitions outside Russia; however, there has been no exhibition devoted solely to her art.

Elena Polenova was a leading figure in the Russian craft revival which began at the estate of Abramtsevo, just north of Moscow during the 1880’s.  She took traditional folk patterns and developed them into fashionable designs for hand-made wooden furniture which was produced by rural people and then sold in fashionable Moscow boutiques.  She was also a talented watercolourist, textile designer and illustrator of children’s fairy-tales. Her vision of traditional Russian folk culture was of seminal importance in the export of Russian culture to the West, and also the development of early Modernism.

Drawing on the world’s greatest collection of Polenova’s work – The Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov State Memorial History, Art and Natural Museum Reserve in the Tula region of Russia, near Moscow – this will be the first Polenova exhibition in Europe. It will offer an extensive view of the artist’s career, showcasing her production in a wide range of media, including paintings, furniture, ceramics and a selection of rarely seen works on paper (including fairy-tales illustrations).





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