Tatiana and Olga 2010

Tatiana and Olga  2010

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.


  1. Anne, have you read the memoirs of Marshal Mannerheim of Finland? Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, he served for 30 years in the Russian imperial army. For some of this time, he served in the Chevalier Guards in St. Petersburg and was present, for instance, at the coronation of Nicholas II. He was very devoted to the imperial family. Years later, he would still keep autographed photos of them among his prized possessions in his grand home in Helsinki. He also had a portrait of Nicholas II on the wall, which caused some controversy among nationalistic Finnish visitors- but as Mannerheim would say: "He was my emperor."

  2. Matterhorn
    Thank you for your marvelous comment! I will look for this book. I would enjoy his memoirs.

    Indeed. Marshal Mannerheim remained a soldier of the Tsar, even after he helped to found the nation of Finland following World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1939, the armies of Stalin invaded Finland. During the Winter War of 1939-40, the Finns defeated the Soviets until sheer force of numbers forced Finland to negotiate peace, at a cost of a large slice of territory. In 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the Nazis tried to tempt the Finns to join the attack by offering them a large block of Northern Russia as well as the territory that Stalin had seized from them.

    But Marshal Mannerheim would only fight the Russians who were stationed on Finnish soil.

    Had the Finns also attacked Norther Russia as Hitler wished, the ring around Leningrad would have been sealed and a crushing blow for Russia would have taken place. Then the heroic 900 day siege of Leningrad that resulted in defeat for Hitler, would have had little chance for success.

    The Soviets later attacked Finland again in 1944, but the Free World has a great deal to thank Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim for remaining a soldier of the Tsar.

  3. Indeed, Mannerheim made a clear distinction between the Finnish cause and the Nazi cause. Let me just note, though, that, in the second round of fighting with the Soviets, the Finns did occupy a section of territory in Far Karelia, beyond the 1939 frontier, an area which, although it contained many Finnic speakers, had never been part of Finland. The reasons for this are debated, with disagreement over whether it was merely a strategic maneuvre to secure a buffer zone for the Finnish troops within the pre-1939 border area, or whether the ultimate aim was to annex the territory as part of a "Greater Finland." But you are correct, the Finns avoided attacking the Murmansk railway or participating in the siege of Leningrad as Hitler would have wished.

  4. Another theory about the reasons for occupying Far Karelia is that the territory was potentially intended to serve as a bargaining chip in eventual negotiations with the Soviets-i.e. it could be traded for other, Finnish territory.

  5. Matterhorn, Thank you for this added infomation!