Rosalind Polly Blakesley’s research in two distinct fields – Russian art, and the Arts and Crafts Movement – aspires to recalibrate the geographical compass of art history. By forging new theoretical formulations to study countries underrepresented in scholarship, her aim is to widen the discipline’s discursive field. Her monograph on The Arts and Crafts Movement challenged the centrifugal narrative of other studies, which invariably trace the movement’s complex manifestations back to British precedent. The book attends to the British movement and its translation abroad. But primary research, particularly in Russia and Scandinavia, reveals vibrant Arts and Crafts practices independent of British influence, too. This international emphasis unsettles the Anglo-centricity of other scholarship, announcing instead a transformative design movement that extended across the western world.
Similarly, she considers Russian art within a broad set of trans-cultural debates. Previous projects have addressed the impact in Russia of formative cultural figures such as William Morris and Emile Zola, and the internationalism of key Russian artists and institutions, notably the Academy of Arts. She is now writing a book on Russian painting from 1757-1878 which aims to instantiate this within the European mainstream, and forge new understanding of the transnational formation of supposedly national schools.