Andrew Romanoff


Prince Andrew Romanoff might have become Russia's tsar, had fate, in the form of the Bolshevik Revolution, not intervened. Andrew is the grandnephew of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, who was murdered along with his family in 1918. Andrew grew up not in Russia but in England, where his family found refuge from the murderous schemes of the Bolsheviks.

As the first cousin of Tsar Nicholas, the English King George V wanted to aid his family. He sent a ship called the H.M.S. Marlborough to rescue Nicholas II's sister, the Grand Duchess Xenia, who was Andrew's grandmother. The king invited Xenia and her family to live in a 23-room "cottage" on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Andrew was born on January 21, 1923, in London and spent most of his childhood inside the castle gates. The Windsor Grounds made for a fantastic playground, with vast lawns, curving paths along the River Thames, fishponds, greenhouses full of exotic plants, and polo fields.

At home, Andrew always spoke Russian, and was expected to behave, well, like a prince. His mother made him practice walking with a stick under his arms so that he would stand up straight, like royalty. Andrew's grandmother never stopped believing that someday the Romanoffs would return to Russia and rule the country once more, as they had since 1613.

Instead, Andrew enlisted with the British Navy and served in World War II. After the war ended, Andrew worked as a farmer outside London in Kent before moving to the United States to join his uncle and aunt in California. In Palo Alto, California, he successfully tried his hand at many different ventures: the import-export business, acting as a timekeeper for a shipping company, carpentry, and art.

Today, Andrew lives outside of San Francisco in Invereness with his wife, artist Inez Storer. On his preferred medium of Shrinky Dinks (plastic sheets that shrink by two-thirds when cooked in an oven), Andrew draws and paints, shrinks the inimitable scenes, then mounts them on painted panels. Andrew's unique, utterly original artwork is firmly rooted in the traditions of Folk Art. There is a refreshingly earnest humor in the choice of material and in the witty execution of Andrew's deceptively simple renderings. His work typically depicts personal memories, impression of American news, culture, and scenes of domestic life. In this book, presented at their original size, Andrew's modern version of Russian miniatures chronicle a most unusual, almost magical, childhood.

The Boy Who Would Be Tsar was designed by Urban Digital Color and contains historical photos and ephemera from Andrew's collection along with his Shrinky Dink drawings. Publication of the book coincides with an exhibition of Romanoff's new work at Gallery 16.