Originally from Norway, Christian Cornelius Krohn, better known as Xan, and his Russian-Swedish wife Julie de Holmberg were key members of the Russian avant-garde in the early part of the 20th century. Xan first moved to Russia in 1905 to study under Ilya Repin before relocating to Munich and then Paris, where he met Julie. They married in 1907 and moved to Kiev, then one of the artistic and cultural centres of the Russian Empire, where they were close friends with Alexandra Exter.
Xan participated twice in the exhibitions of the Knave of Diamonds society in Moscow, first in 1912 and again in the 1916 exhibition, which also included works by Julie. By this time the couple was living in the capital and Xan had established himself as a successful portrait painter. In 1915 and 1916, he painted two portraits of renowned collector Sergei Shchukin, both of which are now in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
After the Russian Revolution the Krohns settled in Oslo where they remained for the rest of their lives.