Moscow artist breathes new life into Russia’s last tsar

Nicholas II | Николай II

Nicholas II of Russia in the uniform of the Life-Guards 4th The Imperial Family’s Rifle Regiment, 1912
Photo © Olga Shirnina

With an artist’s eye and a surgeon’s precision, Olga Shirnina — who works under the name Color By Klimbim — uses Photoshop to breathe new life into black-and-white photos from Russian history.

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Olga Shirnina — who works under the name Color By Klimbim

Olga Shirnina was born in Schwerin (former DDR). She studied at Moscow State Pedagogic Institute of Foreign Languages, where she received a Ph.D. in Germanisctic. Following her studies, she has worked as a professor of German at Moscow State Pedagogic Institute of Foreign Languages and that of Alma-Ata.

Having a special love for arts, she started working as a picture colourist, producing her first work in 2011. Continuing, she published a website and a Facebook page with her colourings, which led her in receiving some significant commissions.

She colorizes photos purely “for pleasure.” The most thrilling part of the coloring process, says Shirnina, is “when suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive.”

Shirnina says it takes her around one full day to colorize a photo, though she’ll usually wait another day before publishing in order to see things with “a fresh eye.”

Olga is fascinated by Russian history, which she finds full of dramatic, cataclysmic events, which not only had an impact on the history of the country, but also on the rest of the world. According to her, “Sometimes a picture can say more than many words are able to, and it gives me great pleasure to add to people’s knowledge and learning about Russia, through my work in colourings”. She also finds it interesting to work with colours, achieving different effects or copying the manner of great painters of the past.

​Olga has contributed to the The Romanov Royal Martyrs Project by undertaking the colourization of all the pictures of the project. In addition to her artwork, she has been able to locate most of the Russian archival material used for the project and has undertaken the transcription work of many handwritten manuscripts.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO WATCH MY INTERVIEW

Olga Shirnina’s colourized photos are also featured in my interview The Conspiracy Against Nicholas II, which aired on YouTube in August 2018. My seven-minute interview was one of a special six-part video series commemorating the Romanovs Martyrdom Centennial in 2018, prepared by the Monastery of St John the Forerunner Mesa Potamos in Cyprus.

To date she has colourized dozens of black-and-white photos of members of the last Russian Imperial Family, all of which are exceptional in their own right. It is Shirnina’s collection of colourized photographs of Emperor Nicholas II, which are my personal favourites:

Nicholas II | Николай II

Nicholas II on the Imperial Train, 1916| Photo © Olga Shirnina

Nicholas II of Russia

Nicholas II | Photo © Olga Shirnina

[Click on the images to enlarge and view caption and copyright]

Nicholas II | Николай II

Nicholas II under House Arrest, Tsarskoye Selo 1916| Photo © Olga Shirnina

Click HERE to view Olga’s collection of colourized photographs The Romanovs. An Imperial Family

© Paul Gilbert. 4 September 2019

 

Photos 37 – 40 of Nicholas II

PHOTOS: Four views of Nicholas II seated in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

Situated in a corner of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace, was a large, plush arm-chair with a high backing, and covered with the Moscow-made silk. This chair is among the most photographed spots in the Alexander Palace. There are countless photos of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and her five children posing in the now infamous arm-chair.

Other family members who have been photographed in this spot include the Empress’s sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna with her husband Grand Duke Alexander “Sandro” Mikhailovich, and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna.

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Copy of the now famous chair in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace

The original chair did not survive, however, a copy of the chair was made in 2000, and used by Russian director Gleb Panfilov to shoot a scene for Романовы. Венценосная семья (The Romanovs: An Imperial Family), a film on the last days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The copy of the chair remains part of the collection of furniture in the Alexander Palace to this day.

I must apologize for the quality of some of the photographs, however, this is something which I have no control over. Where possible, photographs have been chosen for their visual impact, but historical accuracy has made it vital to include a number of photographs whose quality is poor, but whose value as historical documents is considerable. Sadly, during the Soviet years, many photographs of the Imperial family were stored under poor conditions and their standard is low – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019

Documentary: The Return of Pierre Gilliard

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Pierre Gilliard and Nicholas II sawing wood during their house arrest in Tobolsk

«Возвращение Пьера Жильяра» (The Return of Pierre Gilliard) is the name of a new Russian language documentary film dedicated to the the French language tutor to the five children of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia from 1905 to 1918.

Work on on the documentary began in 2018, and was recently completed at the “NATAKAM” film studio; the script was written and directed by Lyudmila Shakht and Konstantin Kozlov. The premiere was held earlier this month in the House of Cinema, with additional viewings scheduled on 20th March at the Knowledge of Russia Society, and on 24th April at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg. Gilliards’ grand-nephews – writer Pierre-Frederic Gilliard and doctor Jacques Moser talk about the life and fate of Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962). The film is based on family memories, diaries, letters and photographs, on their famous uncle, a true friend of the Imperial family.

After returning from Russia to Switzerland, he wrote and published the book Le tragique destin de Nicolas II et de sa famille (1921). An English language edition Thirteen Years in the Russian Court was published in 1927. 

The Swiss-born Pierre Gilliard first gave French lessons to Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, then to Maria and Anastasia. He first began to teach French to the Tsesarevich and Heir Alexei in 1913. Gilliard grew fond of the family and following the Russian Revolution of 1917, he followed them into internal exile to Tobolsk, Siberia. The Bolsheviks prevented Gilliard from joining his pupils when they were moved to the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in May 1918.

Gilliard remained in Siberia after the murders of the Imperial family, assisting White Russian investigator Nicholas Sokolov. In 1919, he married Alexandra Tegleva (1894-1955), who had been a nurse to Grand Duchess Anastasia. In 1920, he returned to Switzerland through Vladivostok, along with wife. He managed to save his archive – diaries, letters, memorabilia, photographs. In 1958, Gilliard was severely injured in a car accident in Lausanne, Switzerland. He never fully recovered and died four years later on 30 May 1962

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Pierre Gilliard’s  Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera

It is important to note that in recent years Pierre Gilliard descendants have donated several memorial items to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. Among these are the *Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera (above)  from which he photographed the Imperial family in Tsarskoye Selo and later in exile in Tobolsk. According to Mr. Moser, his mother, the goddaughter of Gilliard, inherited this camera and explained that “Uncle Pierre” took all the photos at the Russian Court, and that “the emperor himself actually held the camera in his hands.” She showed pictures – in particular the one in which Gilliard and the Tsar sawed wood in Tobolsk (above). The photos which are featured in the documentary film illustrate the dramatic fate of the last Russian emperor and his family. The museum also received a tea set and a set of tableware, a gift to Gilliard from Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, as well as a Faberge brooch and a Paul Bure golden pocket watch gifted by Empress Alexandra to Gilliard’s wife Alexandra Tegleva.

*Pierre Gilliard’s Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera was recently displayed in The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution Exhibition, at the Science Museum in London, England

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In recent years photos taken by Gilliard of the Imperial family were sold at auction

© Paul Gilbert. 17 March 2019

Photos 33 – 36 of Nicholas II

 

Emperor Nicholas II with his only son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei

I must apologize for the quality of some of the photographs, however, this is something which I have no control over. Where possible, photographs have been chosen for their visual impact, but historical accuracy has made it vital to include a number of photographs whose quality is poor, but whose value as historical documents is considerable. Sadly, during the Soviet years, many photographs of the Imperial family were stored under poor conditions and their standard is low – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 15 March 2019

Photos 29 – 32 of Nicholas II

Emperor Nicholas II with his only son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei

I must apologize for the quality of some of the photographs, however, this is something which I have no control over. Where possible, photographs have been chosen for their visual impact, but historical accuracy has made it vital to include a number of photographs whose quality is poor, but whose value as historical documents is considerable. Sadly, during the Soviet years, many photographs of the Imperial family were stored under poor conditions and their standard is low – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2019

Photos 25 – 28 of Nicholas II

I must apologize for the quality of some of the photographs, however, this is something which I have no control over. Where possible, photographs have been chosen for their visual impact, but historical accuracy has made it vital to include a number of photographs whose quality is poor, but whose value as historical documents is considerable. Sadly, during the Soviet years, many photographs of the Imperial family were stored under poor conditions and their standard is low – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 15 February 2019

Photos 21 – 24 of Nicholas II

I must apologize for the quality of some of the photographs, however, this is something which I have no control over. Where possible, photographs have been chosen for their visual impact, but historical accuracy has made it vital to include a number of photographs whose quality is poor, but whose value as historical documents is considerable. Sadly, during the Soviet years, many photographs of the Imperial family were stored under poor conditions and their standard is low – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 9 February 2019

Nicholas II on board the Imperial Train

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Colourized by Olga Shirnina, also known as Klimbim

This photograph of Nicholas II, standing at the window of the Imperial train is one of the most popular images of Russia’s last sovereign. It has been published in countless books and web pages, but is quite often misidentified at Pskov, after signing his abdication in “1917”. This is incorrect. 

The photograph, is one of a series taken at the Stavka military headquarters at Mogilev in 1915, by one of his daughters. It does not depict a man who has just signed over his throne, but that of a very well-composed Emperor and Tsar.

Click HERE to view more of Olga Shirnina’s excellent colourization of vintage photographs of famous Russians, including many images of Nicholas II and his family.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 February 2019