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Caian art historian wins Russian book prize

  • 19 June 2017

Caian art historian and curator Dr Rosalind Polly Blakesley has won the fifth annual Pushkin House Russian book prize for her work The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757-1881. Her book, published by Yale, was selected by a panel of five distinguished judges from a shortlist of six strong contenders, including fellow Caian Simon Sebag-Montefiore.

Professor Simon Franklin, chairman of the judges, said: "Rosalind Blakesley’s The Russian Canvas is a magnificent achievement. It weaves a wonderfully subtle and compelling story of the emergence of a national school of Russian painting. In its range, depth and accessibility it has no parallel in any language. Beautifully produced, with over 250 illustrations, it will surely remain not only the authoritative scholarly account of its subject for many years, but also a much-browsed presence on the shelves of anybody interested in the history of Russian art and culture.”

Rosalind studied History of Art with Modern and Medieval Languages at Caius from 1989-92, before moving to Christ Church, Oxford for her PhD. While completing her doctorate on nineteenth century Russian painting, she spent a year affiliated to Moscow State University. Now Head of the Department of History of Art at Cambridge, Rosalind is a Fellow and Director of Studies in History of Art at Pembroke College. A trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, she has curated numerous exhibitions.

Receiving the prize, she said: "I'm thrilled. The Pushkin House Book Prize shines a spotlight on the complexity of Russia's culture, politics and history, and the rich ways in which people think and write about this. It is a great privilege to work on such a fascinating country, and to be the recipient of this year's award."

Douglas Smith & Stephanie Ellis-Smith, funders of the prize, said: “We are thrilled to congratulate Polly Blakesley on winning this year’s Pushkin House Russian Book Prize. Her book on Russian painting is both path-breaking and enthralling and offers for Western readers a world of discovery into this forgotten chapter of Russian art.”

Marc Polonsky of the Polonsky Foundation, also funders of the prize, said: "Rosalind Blakesley's magnificent history of Russian painting is an outstanding winner of the Pushkin House Prize, which has again demonstrated the high calibre and diversity of contemporary writing about Russia."

Simon Sebag Montefiore's shortlisted book, The Romanovs, is an account of Russia's ruling dynasty from 1613-1918. It is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

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