Nicholas Raphael de Grandmaison (1892-1978)

Nicholas Raphael De Grandmaison (at Right)

Nicholas Raphael De Grandmaison (at Right)

Nicholas Raphael de Grandmaison (1892–1978) was a Russian noble who was born in Moscow. His mother was Russian and father was French. From a young age, he was interested in painting and fine arts, and prior to the Russian Revolution he served in the White Russian army. Starting from 1914, he spent a few years in German prison camp where started making portraits. Afterwards he decided to take his education in arts and studied in London and Paris, before going to Canada in 1923. Though he had studied oil painting, he painted a lot with pastels after his move, as was easier to find those in Canada.

In 1931 he married Sonia de Grandmaison (Sonia Dournovo), who was another Russian artist living in Canada. Sonia was born in 1912 in Russia, and was the daughter of Colonel Orest Dournovo and Alexandra Berdiaeff, who had immigrated to Canada after the Russian Revolution. Nicholas and Sonia decided to settle down in Calgary, where they made their living painting children’s portraits. Soon they both started to paint native nations in Canada and America. They started to travel more to various places across North America to paint indigenous people.

However, as the family has already became bigger, they had to settle somewhere permanent and start quite living. So they bought a house in Banff, in 1939, and only Nicholas continued to travel most of the time.

By the end of his life, Nicholas R. de Grandmaison was an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy, spoke several First Nations’ languages, and was elected as a member of the Order of Canada in 1972. Through his work and his art, Grandmaison captured an important era of Canadian and American history, and he is considered a prominent visual historian in Canada; his works are represented in numerous public and private art collections across North America.

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