Grand Duchess Olga began to show her talent as an artist at a very early age: "Even during my geography and arithmetic lessons, I was allowed to sit with a pencil in my hand. I could listen much better when I was drawing corn or wild flowers."
In 1894, Emperor Alexander III the Peacemaker Tsar passed away in the arms of the Very Reverend John of Cronstadt. Grand Duchess Olga adored her father who was powerful, confident and authoritative, yet so happy, affectionate and comfortable in his family circle. The loss of her beloved father was the first cruel blow fate would deal the twelve-year-old girl. Many other hardships were to await her in life.
From early childhood, Grand Duchess Olga had learned to love the simple Russian people, the soldiers and sailors who were in service at the royal palaces and aboard the imperial yachts. Later on at Olgino, her estate in the province of Voronezh, she saw first-hand the life of the people in all their joys and sorrows. At Olgino, the Grand Duchess subsidized the village school with her own money, as well as other contributions, and often visited the country hospital which had been established under her supervision. She learned to administer medical treatment and methods of caring for the sick from the local doctor.
Life in the capital, balls and receptions held no interest for her. Her soul remained nonetheless open to the beauty of nature and to the meaning of the existence of the people. From early childhood, she was fascinated by painting from nature, an influence which was to follow her throughout her life, wherever she might be tossed by fate: landscapes and still life paintings made up a significant portion of her creative work.
However, the Grand Duchess was of an elevated nature not only from an artistic point of view. The lofty character of her soul became apparent in her deep belief in the Orthodox Church, a tradition for all the descendents of the ancient Romanoff family. Grand Duchess Olga loved services held in large churches on Sundays and holidays when common people and gentry alike would unite as one in Christ's army. Throughout her life, she read the Holy Scripture and various works of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.
Her religious nature was especially obvious in her passion for icon painting. She blessed shelters and military units, hospitals and schools with the icons she had painted.
Grand Duchess Olga protected and was the patroness of many charitable organizations and establishments from an early age. She was, for the most part, benefactress to orphanages, hospitals, poorhouses and schools for girls. She gave considerable help to poor but talented artists. Many destitute Russians sought help from her personally. She tried to help every needy person as far as her strengths and means would permit.