On the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the Hague Museum of Photography presents a unique series of insider photographs of Romanov family life, taken by the Swiss writer and academic Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962). As private tutor to the tsar’s children, he built up a close relationship with them over a period of thirteen years. His intimate, disarming and sometimes surprising pictures of boat trips and games show the still apparently carefree years before Russia’s last tsar met his fateful end.
On 8 March 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate when his army joined the revolution. Years of war and famine had led to demonstrations and strikes. Once the armed forces joined the uprising, the days of the imperial Romanov family were numbered. After months of house arrest and being moved to a ‘safer place’, Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children – Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei – were executed by Bolshevik troops. Their gruesome death, the rare bleeding disorder suffered by the little heir to the throne, Alexei, and the murky role of faith healer Rasputin give the story of the Romanovs a lasting fascination. For example, a host of books have been written and films made about just one small facet of it: the life of Anastasia and the uncertainty surrounding her death.
Pierre Gilliard began photographing the family in around 1911 and remained with them until shortly before their death. Over that period he recorded both official occasions and domestic scenes, went on holiday with them and snapped the children as they ‘played at war’ and pursued other leisure activities. The exhibition features over seventy modern gelatin silver prints made from his original negatives.
An exhibition produced by the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, presented in The Netherlands in collaboration with The Hague Museum of Photography. This exhibition is curated by Daniel Girardin, Musée de l’Elysée, with Frouke van Dijke, associate curator for the presentation in The Netherlands.
Another exhibition on the Romanovs is on show from 4 February to 17 September at Hermitage Amsterdam