Grigory Ivanovich Gurkin (Choros-Gurke)

Born in the village of Ulala, Altai (now Gorno-Altaisk) in 1870. Executed by shooting in 1937. From the age of eight, Gurkin, a native of Altai territory, studied the art of icon painting icon painting. He later built iconostases, and began to paint oils from life. In 1896, Gurkin went to study at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, but he was not accepted there, and instead became a student of I.I. Shishkin whose studio he worked in. By the beginning of the 1900s, Gurkin was already working independently, mainly in Altai territory, and from 1902 began to exhibit his works on a regular basis in academic and traveling exhibitions. During 1902–1912, he traveled extensively throughout Altai territory. In July 1917, he was elected chairman of the Altai Mountain Duma (a council or representative assembly). However, when the regime changed in 1919, he was arrested. In 1926, two exhibitions of Gurkin’s works were held in Moscow. He was arrested several times in the 1930s, and then executed by shooting in 1937. “Altai is not simply mountains, forests, rivers and waterfalls, but also a living spirit… The fogs—its transparent thoughts run in every direction of the world. The lakes are its eyes that gaze into the Universe. The waterfalls and rivers are its speech and songs about life and the beauty of the Earth and mountains,” wrote Gurkin about Altai territory. In his works, G.I. Gurkin is seen not only as an outstanding landscape painter and follower of the Russian academic art school, but also as one of the first researchers of the ancient culture of the Altai people and other related peoples that populate Gorny Altai, Tuva and Mongolia.

A Nomad Encampment in the Mountains - 1900, oil on canvas, State Art Museum of Altayskiy Region
Khan-Altai - 1907, oil on canvas, State Art Museum of Altayskiy Region
Lake Karakol - 1909, oil on canvas, State Art Museum of Altayskiy Region
Lake of Mountain Spirits - 1910, oil on canvas, State Art Museum of Altayskiy Region
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