Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tatiana Nikolaevna Romanova 2010

My portrait of Tatiana Nikolaevna is finished and so I have completed the OTMA 1914 series begun in May with Marie

Tatiana Nikolaevna Romanova is considered by many as one of history's great beauties . She was unusually looking , some say exotic. In the reference photo I choose for my painting , Tatiana's head is tiled at an angle which can alter the appears of a face's features. All this adds up to quite a challenge for an artist and she did give me a hard time at the start . But the only remedy is to keep painting and paint one's way out of trouble . It took awhile, but I got back on track...

As an artist painting Tatiana is made difficult not just for the challenges
I mentioned, but also because no one agrees on her description!

Buxhoeveden: - dark hair, light brown eyes
Dehn: - "dark chestnut" hair, "deep blue" eyes
Gilliard: - "auburn" hair
Vyrubova:- "rich brown" hair, eyes "so darkly grey" that they appeared "quite black" in the evening

Brown, blue, grey,...and I have even read they were amber! Generally I paint her eye dark in shadow and a light grey in sunlight

If one wants to paint from a photo, would say look at the photo almost more than your art work! Paint what the photo tells you to and it will make sense down the road. I have found that out more than once . Also look at features and shadows as shapes at first...and as you paint, you can begin to check if things are correct by lining them up with other features. Take a ruler to the photo and draw straight line from one point to another ... Does your art work correspond correctly with the photo ? I have found this of great help.

But even though I strictly adhere to the reference photo, I don't feel artistically limited.
A painting of a photograph is not a photo...the brush strokes ensure that. Really it feels like an expansion of the image and moment...turning still picture into film

Portraiture is a dance of exactness and magic . There are moments when one is painting and it's going well when it appears the subject is truly before you. When the brain is not sure for a long enough moment to create the sense of truly seeing them . These are golden moments in art and are magic.

Art truly is magic. There is no logical reason a group of daps or paint strokes should create the sense of seeing someone. But they can . Sometimes we see simply paint on canvas and are unmoved...other times, the picture strikes us forcibly and we "see" the subject

Painting is a fascinating mystery even as one does it...maybe especially then

Tatiana Nikolaevna Romanova was the second eldest daughter of the last Russian Tsar and known in the family as "The Governess" . Anastasia calls her so in a letter to their father and she is complaining of Titania's "bossiness" ! Tatiana liked lists, exactness, and things going as smoothly as possible.

Here is a charming example of Tatiana in action in a letter written by her sister Marie to their father, the Tsar

4 January 1916
My Golden Papa!

I am writing to you in the morning. Anastasia is sitting on the divan near the heater drawing something. We changed our rooms about completely - the beds are in the same place, but the screens are shifted to a different place, I can't explain it so clearly in writing how it all is - you'll see it yourself when you come home, which will be, I hope, very soon.

This morning we were at the Big Palace's hospital at 9 o'clock - we hadn't been there in an awfully long time. Yesterday we went to the Kokorevsky Hospital- three of your Yerevanians are being treated there.

In the evening , the day before yesterday, we laughed and laughed. Old aunt Olga rang our Olga, that one of the soldiers from her combined regiment had asked her to come and visit her wounded from that regiment. So then, Olga goes to ring the duty room where Kulyukin was on duty, and a duty guard answers and asks, "Who is on the phone?" She answers, "Olga Nikolaevna." "Which Olga Nikolaevna?" "You don't know Olga Nikolaevna? The one who lives above you?" "No idea what you are on about." "Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna - have you got it?!" and then she began laughing nervously when he got all offended and said, "Madame, this is an official telephone line and prank calls are not allowed!" and hung up. Olga stormed out. Within five minutes in comes Tatiana, she rings, the guard knows her, and she explained everything. Yesterday Kulyukin came to the Liturgy and asked Olga's forgiveness of Resin, as he didn't expect her to ring and thought someone was having a joke.

Since Mama's lying down in bed, we're having breakfast and dinner on our own.
Well, bye then. I have to go to breakfast now. I give you a great big hug with love,

Your Kazanets

Marie's sign off, "your Kazanets" means "your Kazan regiment member/officer" and is a reference to Marie's status as honorary commander of the 5th Kazansky Dragoons.

Of course Taiana Nikolaevna knew the guard!

" The Governess" indeed!

With the coming of war, the Empress and her two eldest daughters studied and passed tests to become Red Cross nurses. Tatiana had a quite talent for the this vocation. Here we see her love of exactness and order being given great scope. She also greatly enjoyed meeting new people, many she would never would have known but for her hospital work

The war years were very busy for the Grand Duchesses. Tatiana and Olga headed relief committees and fulfilled their usual royal duties as well spending many houses at the hospital ...and they were was no figure heads for their committees . Tatiana's committee was for refugees . Young as she was, she attended meetings and over its saw operations.

Tatiana wrote:

I am at the head of a committee for refugees and have presided two sittings. I felt very grand but wanted to dive under the table from fright as I have got a very stiff and pompous gentleman who is under me

It's to be remembered Taitana was 17 when the war broke out and the girls were not used to be addressed by their full titles . I imagine the gentleman addressed Tatiana as " Your Imperial Highness" many times over the course of a meeting!

After the Revolution, increasingly Tatiana because the point person between the family and their captors. Before the Revolution she was the one the others turned to to ask Alexandra for favors and she then segwayed right into the position of being the one to ask their jailers for concessions... On the last day of their lives, she was the one who asked why was the kitchen boy sent away.

Her tutor Gillard on Tatiana's character :

"Tatiana Nicolaievna was rather reserved, essentially well-balanced, and had a will of her own, though she was less frank and spontaneous than her elder sister. She was not so gifted, either, but this inferiority was compensated by more perseverance and balance. She was very pretty, though she had not quite Olga Nicolaievna's charm.

If the Tsarina made any difference between her children, Tatiana Nicolaievna was her favorite. It was not that her sisters loved their mother any less, but Tatiana knew how to surround her with unwearying attentions and never gave way to her own capricious impulses. Through her good looks and her art of self-assertion she put her sister in the shade in public, as the latter, thoughtless about herself, seemed to take a back seat. Yet the two sisters were passionately devoted to each other. There was only eighteen months between them, and that in itself was a bond of union."

Indeed. Tatiana and Olga, the eldest, were called "The Big Pair." They were some what opposite in their approach to life. But as Gillard mentions were devoted to each other, drew on each other's strengths for support and indeed met their deaths in each others arms. The two youngest sisters, Marie and Anastasia , known as "The Small Pair" , depended on each other as well. Anastasia wrote her sister Marie a touching letter when the family was separated in 1918 and stated "when the sisters sit together in the evening , you are missed. "

But Here is a delightful annotate from Tatiana's younger years

........The girls were very fond of the people who took care of them, one of them being naturally their nurse Margaret Eagar. One day Tatiana was being made ready to go out and Miss Eagar went to get her coat. But when she returned, she saw the other nurse shaking the girl " How dare you shake Tatiana?" Eagar exclaimed. "You are paid to take care of her, not to correct her!" The child turned her eyes to Eagar and asked, obviously surprised: "She is paid?" "Yes," replied the governess. " She is paid and I, also, am paid."

Hearing that, little Tatiana put her head on her nurses shoulder and wept bitterly. Miss Eagar was flummoxed. "You have seen me get my money every month," she tried to figure out what was actually wrong. But Grand Duchess Tatiana stated: "I always thought it was a gift to you!" A long explanation followed where Tatiana was told it was necessary the governess was paid, as she had no money of her own and her way of earning her living and money was to look after the children.

The next morning Miss Eagar awoke and Tatiana was standing by her bed. "May I get into your bed?" the child pleaded. And as she cuddled down in the arms of the governess she exclaimed: "Anyway, you don't get paid for this."
LOL! How true!


This is a telling anecdote from so much later told by Lili Dehn in her book "The Real Tsaritsa" :This was the when Lili Dehn was ordered to leave the family while she was staying with them at Alexander Palace in 1917.

"Zanoty had packed my suitcase, and the Empress now sent her to fetch a sacred medal, which she hung round my neck, blessing me as she did so. At the last moment, Tatiana ran out of the room, and returned with a little leather case containing portraits of the Emperor and Empress which had stood on her special table ever since she was a tiny child.

"Lili," she cried, "if Kerensky is going to take you away from us, you shall at least have Papa and Mama to console you". We walked slowly towards the head of the great staircase…the moment for saying farewell had arrived…I tried to be brave… the silence was unbroken save by Tatiana’s stifled sobbing. Olga and the Empress were quite calm, but Tatiana, who has been described by most contemporary historians as proud and reserved, made no secret of her grief."
Sometimes those famous for their reserve show us their manner stems not from a lack of feeling...but from an abundance.

Tatiana Nikolaevna cared deeply about how things went for her family and her county. I sometimes think she was the most sensitive of the Tsar children .

 and now some letters by Tatiana Nikolaevna in captivity
From Tatiana Nikolaevna to ZS Tolstoya

Tsarskoe Selo, 23 June 1917

Dearest ZS,

I am terrible ashamed that I still have not thanked you for your letter on the 29th of May and the lovely embroidered bags. I took the bluish one with multicolored flowers, Olga-blue with yellow roses, Anastasia- pink, and Maria- all yellow. They are very useful and those always remind us of you. Mom always takes her bag to the garden with a book or something else.

The weather here is warm all the time, then comes heavy rain and it became much lighter. But, we need the rain more as it’s very dry around us. How are you all? Does your husband read aloud to you while you work? In the evenings after we have our dinner, we all work too while Papa reads to us. We are now finishing the sixth volume of the book "Le Comte de Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas. Do you know it? It is extremely interesting. Earlier, we have read about different detectives which are also interesting.

Well, goodbye, dear ZS. I will wait for your letters. I strongly kiss you and also Dalechka. Greetings to your husband and Sergei. Remove the sticker and send me your card. I will be very glad to have it.


Tobolsk, home of the Governor, on October 2, 1917,

addressed to Zénaïde Sergïévna Tolstoy

My dear and kind Zénaïda Sergïévna, I am so ashamed of you just write today to thank you wholeheartedly for your nice letter of 30 VIII and I have already received here. Thank you very much Dalitchka [nickname Nathalie Petrovna Tolstoy] and I write him another time. We often think you and hope you are in good health. Basically, in general, we have setlled. The house was not large but comfortable [it is the governor's house to Tobolsk, where was the imperial family prisoner in August 1917 in the spring of 1918]. There is a balcony where we sit often. The weather here is almost every day magnificent. It is very hot, but the leaves fall hard. Behind the kitchen is a small garden with a vegetable garden in the middle. You can visit without any exaggeration, in three minutes. After we closed a portion of the order in front of the house, where we walk, that is backwards and forwards -120 not long. Here, the streets are covered by wooden boards. In many places there are big holes, but everyone runs well. Our windows overlook the street. Watching passers is about our only distraction. We went three times to the church-it was such a great consolation and joy! On Saturdays and other times, we had the typical and vigils here in a room. Of course, it's good, but can not replace a church. There are already a half years that we are no longer went to a true church, because Tsarskoïé Selo we had a church on rounds.

From our windows we have a splendid view over the mountain, the high city and the cathedral. Too bad we can not see the river. Time passes quickly in a monotone. We work, read, play the piano, interspersed with walks and lessons. That's it. How are you, and you spend your time? This winter resterez-vous locally or partirez-vous to Tsarskoïé? I heard that the husband OK Lives in S., not far from home. I do not know if it is there, and I do not know his address. I would be grateful if you hold me to procuriez. If you see Moussia, please tell him that I thank him for his letter and I kiss him. Write directly to my address here or on behalf of the Commissioner Pankratov [Vassily Séménovitch Pakratov responsible for the supervision of captives], through which all correspondence. So, goodbye, my dear and kind Zénaïda Sergïévna. I often think of you. Your bags are with us. I embrace you very much, and Dalia. Greetings to your husband and Seriocha [nickname Serge Tolstoy]. When a finger touches the small leaf, it smells good. I think that is it named geranium


This next letter is to V.I. Chebotareva , a young married woman and fellow nurse who befriended the Grand Duchesses, particularly Tatiana, during the war.

Tatiana Nikolaevna to V. I Chebotareva- 9 December 1917

We’re like living in a faraway place and that we get to another world. Many stupid rumors are written in the newspapers that you probably read but all of them are untrue. We even have a newspaper clipping which said of my escape to America!
I hope that you will not believe it. I wonder who made these silly inventions…


 In this next letter Tatiana speaks of the theatrical plays the family put on while in Tobolsk. It's amazing to think Nicholas and Olga acted in Chekhov's play "The Bear" but they did. It's a very funny play and it's made even funnier when one thinks of them speaking its words to each other....that is but one play of the number of plays the group put on . Pyotr Petrov had been her teacher since childhood


Tatiana Nikolaevna to Pyotr Petrov, 26 January 1918

Hello, sweet Pyotr Vasilievich,

Thank you very much for your two letters. I was verytouched that you wrote so much. We are in complete health, thank God, live quietly as before, and strangely enough, so far none among us has fought with anyone else. In the morning we have lessons for two hours, from 9 to 11, walk for an hour, and study for another hour. After lunch we walk again-- usually until 4, and if it's really good weather, then for

Before tea, we work or occupy ourselves for a while with something. After tea and before supper there are often rehearsals of some play. We have already put on three. All the same, we're still practicing another little diversion, and it's good for conversation.

A small [snow and ice] hill has been built in our yard. When we get bored with walking back and forth, then we slide down it, and often we take very funny falls. Once Zhilik ( Gilliard ) ended up sitting on my head. I begged him to get up, but he couldn't because he had sprained his ankle and it hurt. Somehow I crawled out.

It was terribly silly and funny, but he still had to lie down for a few days because of his ankle. Another time I was going down the hill backwards and banged the back of my head really hard against the ice. I thought nothing would be left of the hill, but it turned out that neither I nor my head burst, and my head didn't even hurt. I've got a hard head, don't I? Eh?

We also had very cold weather with a particularlystrong wind-- it sliced terribly at my face. It was very cold in the rooms. In the hall it was 5 30/4degrees [42 degrees Farenheit]. Not far from Mr. Conrad's. Please console him at least a little bit.Does he get letters from his wife? How can it be that you still haven't gone to the show in the Chinese theater? Oh! What famous things you are missing!

Did Yury Petrovich get my postcard? All the best. We
send greetings to his sister, too.

Be well. We send everyone heartfelt regards.



To Princess Nadezhda Orlova née Petrovna (daughter of Pyotr Petrov, tutor of the Grand Duchesses)

2 October 1917 - Tobolsk
All of us are here and everything is in order. The house was small but cozy. It has a balcony where we sit on much. Almost everyday, the weather is wonderful, very warm but many leaves fall. We get much air here. There also is small garden behind the kitchen.

We walk around the garden for only three minutes. A part of the street we walk on in front of the house was fenced. We walk to and fro - about 120 steps long. The streets here are all covered with wooden planks, and in many places, there are big holes, but one can drive safely. Our windows look out onto the street, so we have fun looking at the passers-by. Thrice we went to church - it was such a comfort and joy! On Saturdays and other days, we have vespers and obednitsa. Certainly, those are good but still, it cannot replace a true church. Time passes quickly and monotonously. We work, read, play the piano, walk, and have lessons. Those are all for now. Directly address your letter to me, or in the name of Commissioner Pankratov, through whom all letters go firstly…


From Tatiana Nikolaevna to VI Chebotareva)
Tobolsk, 1 / 14 May 1918

Tobolsk 1/14 May 1918
Dear Valentina,

How long had it been since I sent you a letter? How are you now? Have you received the parcel

I sent you? How did you spend your holidays? They were sad for us since we were without Papa and Mama. You have probably already heard they were taken away from us. It was so sad to separate ourselves from them. You are sure to understand. Maria went with them and we stayed with my brother, who is sick. Of course, we were not told where to and for what purpose they were being taken, neither they knew anything. Almost a week after their departure, we learned that they had arrived at Ekaterinburg. We receive letters from them. It is such a joy for us. Mama’s heart is hurting very much as a consequence of the awful road to Tyumen – they had to travel over 200 versts by horses along a horrible road. They spent nights in villages. Now they live in three rooms. Before their windows is a huge fence, so one sees only the top of a church. We are now expecting to leave shortly as soon as brother fully recovers.

Do you have news from your husband (Lieutenant General AP Chebotarev)? Where is Grisha( V's son) – what is he doing now? We have no news from Bibi, perhaps her letters to us have not arrived yet. I hope you are all healthy. I worried a lot about you for it has been a long time since we wrote each other. Is O.P (?) with her husband? Did you see them? I would be very glad if you write back and would send it directly to me. Olga kisses you. We had warm weather almost everyday and we still wear the same dresses, but on holidays, it was cold and the snow fell. Now again, it gradually becomes warmer. Where are L.F. (?) and her husband (Lieutenant General Krasnov)? Think of it– Onoshko surprisingly wrote us twice nice letters. Honestly, I never ever expected something from him, my dear boy. Well, goodbye for now, my dear Valentina Ivanovna. I remember the hospital and all of you often. Good luck and God bless you. How (…)? I firmly and gently kiss you. Send my greetings to everyone who remembers me.

Your Tatyana.

" Send my greetings to everyone who remembers me. "

Tatiana Nikolaevna

She is not fogotten

I also include Tatiana's video showing how her painting was made

My next Romanov painting is of Marie , Olga and Tatiana when they were about to attend the last state funeral of Imperial Russia in 1915. It's been an adventure already!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Olga Nicolaievna by Anne Lloyd 2010

My portrait of Olga Nicolaievna is completed. At the beginning, one never knows how a piece of art will turn out. I am so grateful that this painting turned out as well as it it. Most Romanov enthusiasts have a family member who often calls to them more than the others, almost a special door to the family. For me, and for forty years, that one has been Olga Nicolaievna.

It's not based on any reason ( though there are many) before I could read the family's story, Olga's photo captured my interest. So it's extra meaningful to me that her portrait turned out as it has, really beyond my hopes. As readers of this blog know, I only began seriously painting last year. However I believe what is helping me now as I paint , is many years of sculpting and 40 years of looking at the Romanov photographs I am now painting...oh and Spirit.
One feels that strongly in the studio.

Here is a poem Olga wrote for her mother in the Spring of 1917 . The Russian revolution had happened by then, and the family were prisoners in their own home. Yet this is a hopeful poem that looks to the future. The family still believed they would be sent to England or the Crimea to live .

Olga Nicholaievna to Alexandra 1917

You are filled with anguish For the suffering of others.

And no one's grief Has ever passed you by.

You are relentless Only toward yourself,

Forever cold and pitiless.

But if only you could look upon

Your own sadness from a distance,

Just once with a loving soul -

Oh, how you would pity yourself,

How sadly you would weep.

This is a very heart felt poem with a great deal of wisdom. Based on her life time of observation, Olga points out Alexandra could always give solace to others, but not herself. Giving solace to others is a position of power of course , but seeing your own sadness and weeping about it is not. It's acceptance , something Alexandra certainly struggled with often.

Olga wrote to her Aunt Xenia around this time saying that Alexandra couldn't cope with the new life. So here we see Olga's famous compassion extending to her mother as she urges Alexandra, " Mama, be as kind to yourself as you are to others....for once ".

Olga is also offering Alexandra a way to begin to come to grips emotionally with what has happen. Unfortunately their captivity was so tension and danger filled, I doubt Alexandra could take this advice, even if she would. But it must of felt good to have Olga's love, and understanding so tenderly expressed, and with Olga's usual boldness! She said things to Alexandra no one else would dare.

Here is a letter Olga wrote to her mother in 1918 when the family was separated later in Siberia. One can barely imagine the anxiety of those weeks . Would the two groups even see each other again? They just couldn't know.


2/15 May, 1918.


My dear little Mama, Since your birthday, we had no news of you, I mean, that's why we're waiting for some news of you impatiently. And you, do you not receive our letters? We sent, all in all, two telegrams. I'm writing near the wide open window. Today, the weather is splendid; no wind. The little one is out in the garden. They moved him there in his wheelchair. He also got up and put his clothes on yesterday, but he didn't get out.

We also cut some wood, for the bath. Zhillik and Trina had cut it before with the saw. We were on the roof, sleeping under the sun. Yesterday, there was a splendid sunset, and a marvelous evening. It was so luminous, and the sky was filled with stars!. You certainly don't have such a deep silence when the night has arrived...My dearest, how do you live and what are you doing? I would like so much to be with you! We don't know when we'll leave. My little brother must go in the garden more often and regain more strength, then, I think we will be able to leave.

I've sent a card to Kay these days. Today, I got a letter from Trofimov. He salutes you all, and send his regards. He's writing that the little Anatoly, his son, sends his wishes to his "grand-mother". There's a lot of funny couples coming and going in the street, even sometimes on bicycles.

Tell Mashka that I saw N. Dim. and Pimy from afar. We have moved the piano in your lounge, also the couch that was impeding us during Mass. Last night, the fan exploded with a lot of noise, and in our rooms, upstairs, we had no electricity.

I hope that, at least, you get our letters. A strange man has just passed, with a red fez on his head. Well, it's time. May the Lord protect you, my dear Mama, and all of you. I kiss Papa, you and Mashka, I take you in my arms and love you all.

Your Olga.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Yesterday, there was a splendid sunset, and a marvelous evening. It was so luminous, and the sky was filled with stars!.

One cannot help but admire someone who has already suffered many months of ever worsening captivity, but who can still remain so responsive to to nature .

You certainly don't have such a deep silence when the night has arrived

This is in reference to the fact that Ekaterinburg , where her parents and Marie had been taken, was a city of 10,000 and Impative House was right in the middle of it . Someone as perceptive as Olga had to know once there, the chances of escape was nil...yet she and her siblings , Tatiana, Anastasia and Alexi rushed to join their parents and Marie as soon as they were allowed.

Meriel Buchannan reports in her fine essay about Olga:

....but a few days later a company of Red Guards arrived, with orders to take everybody to Ekaterinburg. The three Grand Duchesses were overjoyed at the thought of rejoining their parents, and disregarded the warnings of both M. Gilliard and General Tatichtchef, who pleaded that the Tsarevitch was not yet well enough to travel, and tried to delay their departure. Nothing mattered, the Emperor's daughters said, so long as they were all together. Olga Nicholaievna certainly realized their terrible danger, for when on May 20 they started on their journey, she told Baroness Buxhoevenden whose repeated requests to be allowed to join them had now been granted that they were lucky to be still alive, and able to see their parents once more, whatever the future might bring.

Lucky to still be alive...she knew that and lucky the family can even see each other again. Olga knew in the Russia of 1918, these were miracles. But they would be the last.

Meriel Buchannan ends her biographical essay in part with these following words. I can never read them without emotion. When Meriel Buchannan wrote about Olga , it seemed very likely the memory of Olga Nicolaievna Romanova and her short life would be blotted out by the rush of 20th century history.

It moves me how much Meriel Buchannan wants to ensure that will not be the case. This shows the profound effect Olga Nicolaievna had even on those she knew but in passing.

Meriel Buchannan says :

The tragedy of Ekaterinburg has been told before, so much has happened since, and people's memories are short. But because the Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaievna was not known by many, and was loved by all the few who came in contact with her, I have outlined it again very briefly, in the hopes that those who read her story may perhaps remember with pity what was done to her. Not because she was the daughter of an Emperor, and the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, but because she was young and gay and gallant, and steadfast until the end.

Indeed she was

Give my love to all who remember me. "

Olga Nicolaievna


and now some Olga anecdotes

"She was an avid reader and a poetess of considerable talent. In spite of the great difference in age Grand Duchess Olga was particularly friendly with my father with whom she felt free to discuss anything that interested or worried her. She said always that my father was 'a deep well of profound ideas,' and even addressed him in all her letters as 'Dear Well.' [...] Olga and I were working seriously on poetry, and the Grand Duchess became interested in my verses. Her interest naturally added more zeal to my endeavors and from then forward I submitted every new piece of verse I wrote to Olga which she analyzed very carefully, often giving me valuable advise, and exchanging opinions about rhymes, rhythms, and other problems which are supposed to preoccupy the poets. Thus it was that I came to know and appreciate fully the fine sensitive character of Grand Duchess Olga."

"Olga was by nature a thinker and as it later seemed to me, understood the general situation better than any member of her family, including even her parents. At least I had the impression that she had little illusions in regard to what the future held in store for them, and in consequence was often sad and worried. But there was a sweetness about her which prevented her from affecting anybody in a depressing manner, even when she herself felt depressed."

Gleb Botkin


One day at In the beginning of June 1914 when I was alone with her she asked me a question with that confident and disingenuous frankness which was all her own, and the legacy of the relations which had been established between us when she was quite a little girl: “Tell me the truth, monsieur: do you know why we are going to Romania?”

In some confusion I replied: “I believe it's a courtesy visit. The Tsar is going to return the visit the King of Romania paid him some time back.”

“Oh, that's the official reason -- but what's the real reason ? I know you are not supposed to know, but I'm sure everyone is talking about it and that you know it.”

As I nodded in assent, she added: “All right! But if I don't wish it, it won't happen. Papa has promised not to make me -- and I don't want to leave Russia.”

“But you could come back as often as you like.” “I should still be a foreigner in my own country. I'm a Russian, and mean to remain a Russian!”

Pierre Gilliard ____________________________________________________________________

In the strict sense of the word, one cannot call her beautiful, yet her being beams with such femininity, such youth, that she seems more than beautiful. The more you look at her, the more charming and appealing her face becomes.

It is illuminated by a light from within, it grows lovelier because of her bright smile and the way she laughs, throwing her head back a little, showing off a whole straight row of pearly snow-white teeth. Her beautiful, gentle hands handle any job with ease and cleverness.

She is so fragile and gentle as she bends with particular love and care over every soldier's shirt that she sews. Her musical voice, her graceful movements, her lovely, thin little figure -- it is the essence of femininity and friendliness. She is so bright and joyful. I remember the words of one of her teachers: Olga Nikolaevna has a crystal soul."

- S. Ofrosimova ____________________________________________________________________

Grand Duchess Olga, the eldest, was more like her mother in character. She was invariably just and honest. [...] As a child Olga was quick-tempered and even difficult. Like her mother, she was obstinate and spoke to your face what she thought, at times quite sharply. With age it smoothed out, and as she grew up, she seemed to become more softer, more tender and sensitive, while retaining the characteristic honesty of her early years. Olga could not be called beautiful, for her features were not regular--her small nose was tilted up, and her mouth was a bit large, but she inherited golden hair, a good complexion, regal bearing and grace from her mother. Olga was the most gifted of the Imperial daughters. She wrote very nice verses, and had musical abilities; she could play by ear the most complicated piece of music, her voice was not strong, but pure. All the teachers were amazed at her memory, which she certainly inherited from her father. Nothing could distract her if she was engrossed in a task, and to her it was enough to read a lesson once or twice as to know it by heart. Like her mother, she was very religious and was inclined to mysticism. She was my favorite."

Anya. Vyrubova ____________________________________________________________________________________ And when younger... _____________________________________________________________

We took the children to a toy shop, and they were told that they might choose what they liked for themselves, and also for relations and friends at home. Olga looked at the things, and finally chose the very smallest she could find, and said, politely, "Thank you very much." Vainly the shop people showed her more attractive toys; she always replied: "No, thank you; I don't want to take it." I took her on one side and asked her why she would not buy the toys. I said that the people would be very sad if she would not take more, and that she could not leave the shop without buying more. So she said: "But the beautiful toys belong to some other little girls, I am sure; and think how sad they would be if they came home and found we had taken them while they were out." I explained to her, and she and Tatiana laid in a large stock

This story links in my mind with an anecdote from so much later, in May of 1918 when Olga her sisters and brother were rejoining their parents and Marie at Ekaterinburg. The ship, the Rus , was being loaded with their luggage. But along with their possessions, other items that did not belong to the family were being loaded as well. Some things had been scooped up from the governors house, but the big item was a horse and carriage on the dock loaned to them by the local bishop because Alexi couldn't walk to the boat. To the soldiers, it did not matter whose it was, everything on the dock was simply swept up into the Rus . But Olga was very distressed that the bishop would suffer for his kindness. These two stories seemed linked in my mind. They show Olga's inborn caring for others and given her station, her extraordinary empathy.


In 1902 Alexandra wrote to her husband: „To keep the children quiet, I made them think of things and then guess them. Olga always thinks of the sun, clouds, sky, rain or something belonging to the heavens, explaining to me that it makes her so happy to think of that. _____________________________________________________________

Here is my earlier painting of the Big Pair in their nurses uniforms. This painting will be included in the upcoming book of selections of Olga's 1913-17 diaries in English, translated by Helen Azar and edited by Raegan Baker. Raegan Baker edited the earlier book of Olga's 1913 diaries.

You can imagine how thrilled I am to have my work included in a volume of Olga's diares.

As always I make a video about my paintings. Here's is Olga Nicolaievna's

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alexei Nikolaevich and Joy 2010

My painting of Alexei Nikolaevich and Joy is finished!It is 36 inches tall by 18inches wide. I had expert help with his coat colour as military uniforms need to be correct. It's type of grey /green...not easy to achieve. A friend made an interesting remark. They said Joy looks sad because of Alexei's death...though it seems fanciful, I was taken aback. Because I had tried for weeks to get Joy to look alert as he always did, but I could not get the sadness out of his portrait. In the creation of art there is the usual time line of course, but art is not limited to our usual sense of time by any means. So it's not really fanciful to say Joy's sadness comes though, in spite of my efforts. Many times a painting has a mind of its own and the artist finds themselves a facilitator of these other ideas...at least that has been my experience .
Art is such a mystery...even as we make it

Joy, of course was the only one marked for death the early morning of July 17,1918 who some how escaped . Here is what Baroness Sophie Buxhoevedon related about meeting up with Joy in Omsk while she was with the British military, who helped her leave Russia

General Dietrichs told me that the Tsarevich's small spaniel, Joy, was with him at Omsk. The dog had been his small master's constant companion, and had been taken both to Tobolsk and to Ekaterinburg. At Tobolsk the Tsarevich had often been highly amused at the dog's contempt of the Kommissars' orders, for whenever Joy espied me passing the house he would manage to slip through the gates and greet me boisterously.

The poor little beast had been found by the Czechs when they took Ekaterinburg, wandering about half famished in the courtyard of the Ipatieff house. He seemed to be always looking for his master, and this had made him so sad and dejected that he would scarcely touch his food even when he was lovingly cared for.

I went to see Joy, and he, evidently connecting me in his dog's brain with his masters, imagined that my coming announced theirs. Never did I see an animal in such ecstasy. When I called him he made one bound out of the carriage and tore down the platform towards me, jumping in the air and running about me in wide circles, when he did not cling to me with his forepaws, walking upright like a circus dog. General Dietrichs said that he had never given such a welcome to anyone before, and I attributed this solely to the fact that my clothes, which were the same that I had worn at Tobolsk, had still kept a familiar smell, for I had never specially petted him.

When I left, Joy lay for a whole day near the door through which I had gone. He refused his food and relapsed again into his usual despondency. What had little Joy seen on that terrible night of July 16? He had been with the Imperial Family to the last. Had he witnessed the tragedy? His brain had evidently kept the memory of a great shock, and his heart was broken. It was pathetic seeing this dumb friend, who brought back the memory of the Tsarevich so vividly. Little Joy was well cared for. He was taken to England by Colonel Rodzianko and spent his last years in the utmost canine comfort, but still never recovered his spirits

We know Joy was especially exuberant dog because of his very name: Joy, and because of many anecdotes. So it's extra sad to learn of his deep depresstion afterwards. I believe his habit of giving the guards the slip is what saved him that night. And perhaps Joy was "out" yet again when that knock on the door came while Dr. Botkin was writing his last letter. I believe Alexei would have been hugely pleased his Joy escaped. Joy had been almost a surrogate for Alexei Nikolaevich for years already. In that the little dog could throw himself heedlessly into any physical activity, while his master certainly could not...and Alexei always loved it when he did.

I haven't spoken about Alexei Nikolaevich's portrait yet. It came though almost immediately and that surprised me. Usually one has at least a struggle. But not this time. I had more difficulty with his coat colour and Joy. I always make a video of a paintings process and the story of its subject and here is the one for Alexei Nikolaevich and his Joy.

A close up portrait of Olga Nikolaevna is next


Friday, June 25, 2010

Alexei and Joy : painting update

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While my painting of the Tsarevich is far from finished, I thought I would post an in progress image. There is still much to do. But I just wrote to a Russia uniform expert to ask if Alexei Nikolaevich's great coat is the correct color before I proceed further. the Tsarevich is depicted with his beloved, spaniel, Joy. The painting is 18 inches, by 36 inches.

As always, painting Romanovs is both a challenge and greatly rewarding

Friday, June 11, 2010

Alexei Nikolaevich and Joy

My current painting in progress is of the Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and his spaniel, Joy. Of all those at Ipatiev House , only Joy survived. Indeed, the dog lived its final years at Windsor and is buried there today. I think that would have pleased Alexei. He was devoted to this little dog, who could be so much freer in its movements than its master.

When I making a painting from a Romanov photo, it's as if the photo picks me, rather than I do the picking. I look at a great many, and I have seen most of them for many years. One will give me that go ahead feeling, like it has been waiting.

It's an adventure to paint a photo you have known for some time...well you think you know it. But one really comes to see a photograph if you are making a painting of it. Everything has to hang together properly and make visual sense. I also find something new in these photos almost every painting session and as I say I have been looking at them for years.

I also tell others who wish to make art from a photo, to look at the reference photo at least as much, if not more than their art work. It is easy to be lead astray and other parts of the picture will not add up if one area is incorrect. When having trouble , look where the part giving you a hard time lines up with another area in the photo as a guide. It's always a help.

In a crucial way, Alexei Nikolaevich is the saddest Romanov. At least during their short lives, His sisters knew wonderful health. They threw themselves into hiking, tennis, sledding, horse back riding and rough housing! This young man could not. Because of his hemophilia, any bump could cause a life threatening crisis and so there were countless activities his sisters enjoyed, that were denied to Alexei Nikolaevich.

Still when well,he shared in full measure their enthusiasm, exuberance and of course , bravery. However his illness fostered within Alexei a philosophy way beyond his years. As author Robert K. Massie In his book,Nicholas and Alexandra relates:

Alexei was well aware that he might not live to adulthood. When he was ten, his older sister Olga found him lying on his back looking at the clouds and asked him what he was doing. "I like to think and wonder," Alexei replied. Olga asked him what he liked to think about. "Oh, so many things," the boy responded. "I enjoy the sun and the beauty of summer as long as I can. Who knows whether one of these days I shall not be prevented from doing it?"[

The photo I am using was taken during the war. Alexei Nikolaevich is in a Russian army great coat. It has a particular khaki green color.

This example was sent to me by a kind fellow member of the Alexander Palace Forum. When working with black and white photos, this sort of help is enormous. Military outfits must be as correct as possible.

Alexei Nikolaevichis also wearing an St George meal. and a Cossack wool hat. There is no question the young man in the photo is a Russian!

The painting is 18x 36 and will take some time to do.

Alexei Nikolaevich was two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday when he was murdered on 17 July 1918 in the cellar room of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anastasia Nikolaevna 2010

My Anastasia painting is finished. Here is a memoir of someone who knew Anastasia from the hospital she and Marie would visit. I think he has caught her quite well!
One feels she's just rushed out sight to play a new prank else where

“When the Grand Duchesses came, in particular the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, there would begin a terrible fuss and endless lines of pranks. The Grand Duchess was a desperate ‘minx’ and a loyal friend to others, especially to the tsesarevich. The two elder ones have completed courses for being “Sisters of Mercy” while she and the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna worked at sewing clothes for the wounded men and their families, helped prepare bandages and lint, and lamented for being too young to be true Sisters of Mercy like their sisters Olga and Tatiana […] So, the little princess was not able to be very naughty those days. She was given lighter work than that of her two elder sisters. One day, I sat beside the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. Her pretty face is full of life and cheerfulness. Her quick eyes which always sparkle with irrepressible joy and indefatigable enthusiasm, look sharply at everything they see and made her naughtiness apparent. Her acute, sometimes, merciless tongue tells everything she sees. She can enliven any place she sets foot in by her uncontrollable cheerful laughter. In her mischief, she would even dance with the wounded men and once said that she doesn’t like to sit just to sew! While the pale thin hands of Tatiana can quickly knit mittens, the graceful head of Olga bending low to the sewing machine, and Maria Nikolaevna was choosing a new job to do, Anastasia would not think ‘We need to sit and work..’ Instead, her quick mind would devise pranks”.

Here is her video, but also an over view of my three paintings that depict OTMA. As always as a group, OTMA packs a wallop

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Romanov Children as Muse

Since I started painting Romanovs in late 2009, I kept a photographic record of the process. I have rarely painted seriously in a 45 year art career...I was a ceramic artist. So when I felt the urge to paint Romanovs, I decided to record it since I had no idea of it would work out. Well it has worked out pretty well. And I now discover I love painting and I love painting Romanovs.

It's a powerful experience to bring these young people back into being and in color even if it's just with paint. I have been interested on and off in the Russian Royal family for 40 years. But what captured my heart and always will, is their example of grace under fire during the 16 months of their ever worsening captivity after the Russian revolution. The more I learn of this period of their lives, the more I admire them.

I made two videos of the process The first one for the 36x26 inch painting of Olga & Tatiana Nikolaevna in their WW1 nurses uniforms.

I then painted a smaller, 9x12 painting of the third daughter , Maria Nikolaevna. Also known as Marie and "Mashka"

I am currently working on Anastasia's portrait and then will do Alexis.