top of page

Emily Shanks

Emily Shanks  (1857-1936) was the second daughter of James Shanks senior. Emily studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and was the first woman to be made a full member of the Peredvizhniki - the Russian Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions.   Emily's paintings are much admired in Russia and are still on display at  the Tretyakov gallery.

Emily's studies and studio

In 1890 Emily was awarded a ‘large’ silver medal by the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture for her painting ‘Reading a letter’, in the same year she graduatee from college with the rank of ‘artist’.


Emily studied  anatomy at the anatomy school of a Russian hospital.   She also studied under the French painter Charles Chaplin while in Paris.


Emily had her studio in the Shanks family home, the Pakroffka.  She can be seen in this photo of around 1890 at work in the studio. The studio was shared with her sister and friends such as Yelena Polenova when Emily travelled to Paris to study.

The Peredvizhniki

The Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers) were a group of Russian realist artists who, in protest at academic restrictions imposed by The Imperial Academy of Arts, formed an artists' cooperative.  In 1870 the  Peredvizhniki evolved into the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions which had the aim of giving people from rural Russia a chance to see Russian art.   The Peredvizhniki's art was notable for portraying realistic rather than idealised aspects of social life and was often critical of inequities and injustices.  These themes were seen at the time as radical and can be considered to be pro-socialist.  Repin was probably the best known of the Peredvizhniki, his painting 'Barge Haulers on the Volga' 1870–1873 was very influential, showing humans reduced to the roll of beasts of burden, nevertheless retaining some humanity and hope - this is said to have be Stalin's favourite painting. 

Emily Shanks first exhibited with the Peredvizhniki in 1891; she then continued to exhibit in most of the subsequent years until 1915.  In 1894 Emily was elected to membership of the Wanderers for her the painting "Ink Spot" [Kristen Harkness]. She was the first of two women painters to be awarded this honour.  She was elected to the  Peredvizhniki by 15 votes, this was more than the 14 votes received by the acclaimed artist Valentin Serov [Rosslyn, Tosi, Women in Nineteenth-Century Russian Culture pp 109].  Emily's tutor Vasily Polenov (and no doubt a supporter of Emily's membership bid) had been a member of the Peredvizhniki since at least 1885.

The photo (right) shows the 20 members of the Peredvizhniki in 1899.  Emily Shanks is sitting between Nesterov (left) and Levitan (right).


In Russian:

Artists standing are: A:  АН Шильдер  B:  АК Беггров C:  ВИ Суриков  E:   НН Дубовской  F:  МП Клодт  G:  СИ Светославский H:  ГМ Хруслов I: АМ Васнецов

Artists seated are: J: КА Савицкий K: ВЕ Маковский D: Богданов-Бельский L: ГГ Мясоедов  M: ПА Брюллов S: ЕЕ Волков T: АА Киселев N: МВ Нестеров O: ЭЯ Шанкс P: ВН Бакшеев Q:  ИИ Левитан R: ПА Нилус


In English

Artists standing are:  A:  AN Schilder B: AK Beggrov C: VI Surikov E: NN Dubovskoy F: MP Klodt G: SI Svetoslavsky H: GM Khruslov I: AM Vasnetsov

Artists seated are:  J: KA Savitsky K: VE Makovsky D: NP Bogdanov-Belsky L: GG Myasoedov M: PA Briullov S: EE Volkov T: AA Kiselev N: MV Nesterov O: E Shanks P: VN Baksheev Q: I I Levitan R: PA Nilus 


Emily sold her most important work, New Girl, to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow after the work was commended by Ilya Repin.  In 2012 this painting was included in the touring exhibition of works of the Peredvizhniki.  

The ear inspection was donated by the Maude family to Chelmsford Museum in Essex and is on view there.

bottom of page