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 Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna  (1882 - 1960)



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Lived/Active: Ontario / Russian Federation/Canada      Known for: landscape, rural scene, interior, genre, portrait and still life painting

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Olga Alexandrowna Romanova is primarily known as Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (AKA: Olga, AKA: Olga Alexandrovna, AKA: Olga Alexandrovna Romanova, AKA: Olga Alexandrovna Kulikovsky Romanova) (1) was a painter.  She was also the daughter of Tsar Alexander III, sister of Tsar Nicolas II, and one of the few members of the immediate Russian royal family to survive the Bolshevik Revolution.

She was born at Peterhof Palace, near Saint Petersburg, Russia.  Until the revolution she was an active and integral member of the innermost circle of the royal family.  In 1920 she escaped to Denmark, her mother’s homeland, and in 1948, fearing retaliation from Stalin (2), emigrated to Ontario, Canada.  She lived near Toronto for the rest of her life where she died and is buried.

Her mediums were watercolor and oil.  Her subjects were landscapes, gardens, forests, farm life, royal life, interiors, genre, portraits, still life and flowers.  The subject locations are near where she lived in Russia, Denmark and Canada.  Her styles were Realism* and Impressionism*.

She does not appear to have gone to any art schools.  However, growing up in the Romanov royal family included exposure to and encouragement in all forms of art.  Her private instructors included distinguished artists such as Vladimir Makovsky (3), Konstantin Kryzhitsky and Karl Vikentievich Lemoch (1841 – 1910) (4).  Her talents would also have been appreciated and encouraged by the most powerful people in late 19th and early 20th Century Russia.

Olga arrived in Canada when she was 66 years old, because of who she was, and the fact that Canada doesn’t have a plethora of Grand Duchesses, had she wished she probably could have been much more conspicuous and famous.  Certainly by most standards she would have been considered in the very highest ranks of Canadian society.

Though, she did not lead a life of a total anonymity in Canada, and was included in social affairs with visiting royalty like Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Lord Mountbatten, she generally choose not to actively publicize and market her art there; preferring instead to continue selling most of it through dealers in Denmark.

Consequently, it is not surprising that she was not a member of any Canadian artist organizations, does not appear to have participated in any Canadian exhibitions and the author could not find a painting of hers in any Canadian Museum. (5)

Ballerup Museum, Denmark does however advertise a collection of “around 100 of her oil paintings and watercolours”; and the British Royal Collection, Frogmore House, Berkshire, England has the painting titled Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, which was collected by Queen Elizabeth II. (6)

Her work is not illustrated or discussed in any of the major Canadian or international art reference books like Benezit and Who Was Who in American Art (7).  However, her dramatic life is recorded in two best selling biographies, The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, 1 June 1882 – 24 November 1960 (1965), by Ian Vorres, and Olga Romanov Russia’s Last Grand Duchess (1999), by Patricia Phenix (8).

Her life is also discussed in most books about the last years of the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution.  There are also her letters and reminiscences, originally published as a magazine article in 1942, 25 Chapters of My Life: The Memoirs of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (2010), by Olga Alexandrovna, Paul Kulikovsky, Sue Woolmans and Karen Roth-Nicholls. (9)


(1) While preparing this biography at least two other spellings of her husband Colonel Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky’s last name were encountered in otherwise credible sources – Koulikovsky and Kulikovski.  Olga’s grandchildren use Kulikovsky, and it is the name engraved on her and her husband’s tombstone, section 15, York Cemetery, Toronto.  Source: Find A Grave

(2) During World War II, Olga fraternized with Russian collaborators who were part of the occupying Nazi army.  After the war, she conspired to prevent them from being returned to the USSR and punished as traitors.  The Danish government recommended she leave the country as they couldn’t guarantee her safety.  Source: Pages 176 – 181, Olga Romanov Russia’s Last Grand Duchess (1999), by Patricia Phenix (see AskART book references).

(3) All artists and teachers mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with bracketed birth and death dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(4) Source: The Voice of Russia January 23, 2009

(5) Source: The Canadian Heritage Information Network*.

(6) Sources:  and  Also note: Olga’s older sister Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (1875 – 1960) lived at Frogmore as a guest of King George V while in exile. Source: “Olga Romanov Russia’s Last Grand Duchess” (1999), by Patricia Phenix (see AskART book references).

(7) This biography is written by a Canadian, using mostly Canadian and American resources. Contributions by others with additional information are, of course, most welcome.

(8) The birth date on the Vorres book is June 1, 1882; the birth date on her tombstone is June 14,1882; the difference is the thirteen days the Russian’s dropped (skipped) when they converted from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in 1918.  Author’s note: Parts of what is now Canada and the USA converted as early as 1582 and as late as 1867.  Such differences can cause confusion when historians are researching an event using original documents.  For the different conversion dates of countries the United States Naval Observatory recommends seeing .

(9) The author has not examined the most recent book of memoirs.  The Phenix book, however, has only 6 references to her art, painting, exhibitions or art education in the index. All of which, when examined, are rather offhand remarks.  The only substance being the reference to an October 1951 exhibition of her paintings at Eaton’s department store in Toronto and a comment about the Duchess’s sometimes cynical approach to selling paintings which she knew were only being bought because of who did them (not uncommon in the art world).  The author could find no reference at all to her painting in the index of the Vorres book.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.


Biography from Shapiro Auctions New York:
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882 - 1960) was the youngest daughter of Tsar Alexander III and his consort, Marie Feodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark. After the Dowager Empress`s death in 1928, Olga and her husband purchased a dairy farm in Ballerup, near Copenhagen. She led a simple life: raising her two sons, working on the farm and painting. During her lifetime, she painted over 2,000 works of art, which provided extra income for both her family and the charitable causes she supported.

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