The Unfading Light Of Charity. Grand Duchess Olga

The striving for deliberate action, freedom and nature was always particular to the character of the Grand Duchess. In doing so, she found a certain calm and a source of inspiration for her artistic creation. Her verbal descriptions of Canadian landscapes, flowers and trees are amazingly exact and colourful. They complement her pictures in a special way.

Grand Duchess Olga in her garden, St.Olga's Day, Canada, July 13 (24) 1958
Grand Duchess Olga in her garden,
St.Olga's Day, Canada, July 13 (24) 1958
"It was a wonderful evening, everything smelled so sweet. In the forests, it smelled just like in Russia with the birch and all kinds of trees in bloom. Then, when we were driving by homes and gardens of some friends, we saw them and got out of the car. What a beautiful garden they have! Lily of the valley, lilac and all kinds of plants scented the air. We walked through the gardens surrounding the house and on the other side we saw a deep ravine all covered with forest. We could see far off into the distance.

It was beautiful. I was so happy to see all this and the people were so kind. He's a court judge. They were puttering around in the garden and were pulling out their tulips that had finished blooming. The couple was covered with earth, but satisfied with their evening. We got back home only at ten o'clock and went to bed. It was so pleasant to see something new, although 1 enjoy being at home every day and I even draw. Everything is in bloom and is so beautiful!"

"What's strange and strikes me as odd is that you can wander so deeply into the forest and find masses of beautiful apple trees in bloom, lilacs bordering the road where no one even lives, and everything is so unusual! A few days ago, Papa took Mimka and me to what we call our 'old farm' where he dropped us off. I drew my favourite place. Mimka was there for the first time and with a stick in her hand, went to admire the twenty big old apple trees and the lilac hush just beside the ruins of a house where people used to live some forty years ago. People no longer live there, but some of their garden is still standing. It's my favourite spot..." "1 received as a gift a pot of philodendrons. It reminds me of Novominskaya where this plant grows up to the ceiling and around everything at every self-respecting Cossack's house. I hope mine will do the same."

"I've suddenly started to paint quite large watercolours of just flowers. I pick some flowers and then place them in a vase to paint them. One of my drawings shows daisies and these long, prickly-stemmed blue flowers which Mr. Clerc called 'Bouracne', which are apparently called 'blues' in Russian and bees love them. On the subject of bees, a beautiful hummingbird flies up to our house and makes a noise with its little wings. It hovers in the air over my flowers and flies away again. It's really not much bigger than a bee itself".

Tree in Splendour
ŠTree in Splendour. 1930
Strandvej Klampenborg, Denmark
Strandvej Klampenborg, Denmark. 1925

When she had a little time between her household chores and painting, the Grand Duchess read books of basically spiritual content or those which were of family interest.

"I'm reading a wonderful book about Saint Saraphim of Sarov by Dr. Anatoly Timofeyevich. He lives in the U.S. in the Novo Divyeyevsky monastery. They say that such an atmosphere of paradise prevails there and you can feel the love of Father Seraphim..."

Such was Grand Duchess Olga's spiritual attitude towards, and interest in reading. Gradually, as Grand Duchess Olga's circle of Canadian friends grew, her prestige as a painter increased in the eyes of those around her.

"We, but mainly I, have made many new acquaintances who are very pleasant and interesting. A Canadian painter who was in our native land this year in March told us many interesting stories. They even went to the Caucasus, but all by air. He didn't even see trains up close. He saw all the museums, including the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. He was delighted by the old masters, but not at all by the contemporary painters who, for some odd reason, are not allowed to paint what they feel like. Because of this, creative talents are disappearing"

Village Church in Autumn
Village Church in Autumn. 1920
Church in Birch Forest
Church in Birch Forest. 1948

And of course, the Grand Duchess was still fondly remembered in Denmark: "This afternoon, unexpectedly, it was absolutely beautiful summer weather, but in the morning, it was freezing. I painted the entire morning and enjoyed it so much. It was warm and charming in the woods. In all, I sent ten to twenty-two pictures to Copenhagen, since I had sold all the rest here in the autumn (this was much more profitable for me, of course, but in Denmark it's much more flattering for my feelings!)."

"As it turns out, I've sold ten pictures. How glad I am. We all think this is really fortunate and beautiful. In addition, I've received many letters, friendly letters from strangers praising my pictures. Some people have even come to introduce themselves to me (and have coffee at our house!), various ladies of a certain age. It's so pleasant!"
The Grand Duchess recollected of these visits with good humour.

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Historical Magazine «Gatchina Through The Centuries»