Svetoslav Roerich, son of the Russian artist Nikolai Roerich, studied art under the tutelage of his father, who often took him along on archeological trips around ancient Russian cities. On these trips Svetoslav studied the history and culture of Russia. He left Russia via Finland two years after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and came to the United States accompanying his father on an exhibition tour. During that time, and later during his student years at Columbia and Harvard Universities, Svetoslav Roerich continued to paint, and executed a large number of drawings and graphic works. In 1923 the Roerichs left America for India, and from that time foreward Sveloslav Roerich's life would be connected to the culture and history of that country. Over the next decade Roerich assisted in founding the Himalayan Research Institute Urusvati, took part in the scientific expeditions, and studied the history of art of the Oriental nations. The young artist became an important public figure and greatly contributed to the promotion of the Roerich Pact, an idea for the legal protection of cultural values world-wide.
Despite his many responsibilities as a public figure, Svetoslav Roerich remained faithful to his only passion, the art of painting, and quickly matured into a distinctive and original artist. From his early works Roerich proved that he had thoroughly studied various schools of painting and was able to merge the artistic achievements of Indian miniatures, ancient Russian icons, the canons of Tibetan art and European classical tradition. The search for harmony between people and the world around them and exploring the depth of the human spirit became the main theme for the artist. Many portraits painted during this period, including the current work, convey the artist's interest in the common people around him.
Svetoslav Roerich's portraits were singled out by the artist's farther, Nikolai Roerich in his letter to Ambassador Crane dated October 8, 1938 (Columbia Univeristy Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Bakhmetseff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture,The Crane Family Papers, box 7, folder 15). By that time the Crane family already had two paintings by Svetoslav Roerich, one of which was most likely the Portrait of Tibetian Woman and Her Granddaughter painted four years earlier.