Introduction | Gallery | Acknowledgements | Bibliography
In the picture gallery below most of the photos show Nabokov, some others represent members of his family.
The pictures are grouped in several ways.
The first series show Nabokov at various stages of his life, each picture marking another decade.
The second group shows members of his family most dear to him: parents, siblings, wife and son. Vasily Rukavishnikov (“Uncle Ruka”) and Cécile Miauton (“Mademoiselle O”), his French governess, to whom he devoted separate chapters in his autobiography, are also presented.
The third series give Nabokov engaged in his many interests: playing tennis, working as a farmhand, writing novels, keeping goal, hunting butterflies, as a lepidopterist and as a lover of mountains.
The fourth group is a miscellaneous one: photographical portraits, caricatures, drawn portraits and photos of sculptures.
Most of the photos shown below belonged to the Nabokov family. Four of these, dated 1908, were taken by Karl Bulla, who visited Vyra in the month of August of that year. Bulla (1855-1930) was the most famous portrait photographer of pre-Revolutionary Russia, and became the official photographer of the Imperial Court. In July 1908 he visited Yasnaya Polyana, Leo Tolstoy’s estate, in anticipation of the celebrations for the writer’s 80th birthday. He took about a hundred photos of Tolstoy, among these the picture that Pnin sees on his 55th birthday and that haunted his dreams (Pnin Chapter 3).
Six of the photos shown are made by world-famous photographers: Gertrude Fehr, Horst Tappe, Yousuf Karsh, and Philippe Halsman.
Gertrude Fehr lived in Vevey from 1945 onwards, where she founded the Vevey School of Photography. This school was attended by Horst Tappe. He lived in Montreux and portrayed Nabokov many times between 1962 and 1973. His pictures were exhibited in Montreux as part of the celebrations for Nabokov’s centenary in 1999.
Yousuf Karsh, whose portrait of Churchill became legendary, photographed Nabokov in 1972. Philippe Halsman, probably the most famous photographer who portrayed Nabokov, visited Montreux twice, in 1966 and 1968.
The art of making fine headshots depends on the artist’s ability to capture the real person behind the mask the subject may wish to sport: that of a luminary, artist, sage or some other personification. The quality of the splendid portraits of Nabokov may be attributed to some extent to the sitter, as he made no attempts to present a façade. As Philippe Halsman said: “He doesn’t take a bad photograph because he doesn’t give a damn” (VNAY 514).
For an illustrated guide to places in Nabokov's life, see Nabokov's Whereabouts on Dieter E. Zimmer's website.
Note from the General Editor: TheNabokovian.org is designed as a wiki-style site in order to optimize members' contributions. Registered members are therefore enthusiastically encouraged to contribute to the site as frequently as they can. However, there are special restrictions that apply to the site's Photographs page. Because many photographs and images are under copyright protection, we invite photographs to be posted only when the name of the copyright owner is mentioned below the photo, and with the explicit statement in the caption that permission to reproduce the image has been granted. The document granting permission should be sent to the site's General Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vladimir Nabokov at various stages of his life
VN with close members of his family
VN and his many interests and engagements
Miscellaneous pictures: portraits, paintings, caricatures and sculptures