Actress. She was the wife of playwright and author Anton Chekhov, who wrote the roles of Masha in "Three Sisters" (1901) and Madame Ranevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" (1904) for her. She also created the role of Vasilisa in Maxim Gorky's play "The Lower Depths" (1902). Olga Leonardovna Knipper was born in Glazov, Murtiza Province, Russia, into a family of German background. In 1897 she joined the newly-formed Moscow Art Theatre following three years of acting instruction with its co-founder, director and drama coach Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Its landmark 1898 production of Chekhov's "The Seagull", with Knipper in the major role of Arkadina, put the company on the map. The actress and the playwright fell in love during rehearsals but kept the affair secret for years. Chekhov was a lifelong bachelor and his marriage to Knipper in 1901 stunned the Russian literary community, not least because it was known that he was seriously ill with tuberculosis. By mutual (albeit unhappy) consent the relationship was marked by long separations, with Knipper continuing her career in Moscow while Chekhov remained in the warmer climate of Yalta for his health. They exchanged hundreds of letters, in which the author affectionately called his wife "My Doggie" and urged her to fight director Konstantin Stanislavsky over the staging of his plays. In June 1904 she took Chekhov to a spa in Badenweiler, Germany in a last-ditch effort to cure him; he died there two weeks later. She never remarried and subsequently stayed with the Moscow Art Theatre the rest of her life, billing herself as Olga Knipper-Chekhova. Between 1919 and 1924 she accompanied the group on extensive tours of Europe and the United States, and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin later named her People's Artist of the Russian Federation. To mark the MAT's 300th performance of "The Cherry Orchard" in 1943, she resumed her role as Madame Ranevskaya. Part of her interpretation was captured in a Soviet documentary, "Stars of the Moscow Art Theatre" (1946). When she died at 90, Knipper was the MAT's last surviving original member. The complete Chekhov-Knipper correspondence was translated into English in the collection "Dear Writer, Dear Actress" (1996).
Bio by: Bobb Edwards
1860–1904 (m. 1901)