CULTURE AND ART
Gurzuf as the source of inexhaustible inspiration was discovered by Aleksandr Pushkin. On arriving there on the corvette “Abo” from Feodosiya, the poet was visiting the family of General N. Rayevskiy who had purchased the Gurzuf villa from the Duke of Richelieu.
From the poet’s notes:
“And the ship anchored opposite Yurzuf. On awaking, I saw an enthralling scene: multicolored mountains were gleaming; flat roofs of Tatar cabins looked like beehives from afar, stuck to the mountains; poplars like green columns were gracefully rising over among them; the immense Ayu-Dag was to the right...and that crystal blue sky and lucid sea, glow, and midday air..."
Subsequently, the vivid memories of the magnificent time spent in Gurzuf in the company of the hospitable general and his daughters would haunt the poet for the rest of his life. One can easily recognize Gurzuf landscapes in many pieces of the genius:
Thus, if to go thence
Where eternal light burns
Where boon dwells eternally on,
My soul will return.
Memories of A. Pushkin will be accompanying you during your visit to Gurzuf at each step - whether you will be strolling around the Pushkin Quay, or admiring the sculpture Pushkin In Gurzuf and the memorial bust of the poet in the Gurzuf Park, or rowing in boat into the Pushkin Grotto, or examining ancient relics of the past era in the Pushkin Museum while staying in the namesake vacation hotel.
Pushkin’s lines have become prophetic for many poets, musicians, painters, actors and other representatives of liberal professions. It is impossible even to list all those who longed for living and working in Gurzuf. The XIX Century was marked up by the pillars of Russian culture such as Zhukovskiy, Griboyedov, Mussorgsky, Nekrasov, and Aivazovskiy. And this is far from being the full list of grand names.
Gurzuf is inseparably linked with the name of Anton Chekhov. Chekhov put the dreams of his great predecessor in practice. Getting tired of the admirers' intrusive attention in Yalta where he had a nice house, he purchased a small Tatar hut on the seashore at the foot of the Dzhenevez-Kaya Rock in 1900. In a letter to his sister he wrote: "I've bought a parcel of shore with a beach and a rock near the harbor and park in Gurzuf. We now own a whole small bay that may accommodate a boat or motor boat. The house is "crappy", yet is covered with tile; it has four rooms and a large porch". Today, it houses a very neat museum of the writer, carefully improved by the employees fond of the works by Anton Chekhov. The beach in the Chekhov Bay, right behind the museum, is probably the most romantic and pure one in Gurzuf, so the museum is duly worth attending.
At his Gurzuf cottage, Chekhov worked on the piece Three Sisters and other works. After the writer died in 1904, the cottage was transferred to the writer's widow Olga Knipper-Chekhov, actress of the Moscow Artistic Academic Theater, who turned the humble house into a real artistic salon regularly attended by many celebrities of the literary and theatrical world of both capitals.
The beauty of Gurzuf could not leave the eminent Russian impressionist Konstantin Korovin indifferent. The gifted landscapist, designer and decorator, academician of painting especially appreciated unique Crimean light and sought new impressions notable for special vividness and decorative power.
Here, at the Korovin's villa Salambo, would often stay I. Repin, V. Surikov and other artists. Having given its villa to the USSR's Artists' Union in the end, Korovin turned Gurzuf into a place of permanent plein air of the Union-wide scope. Many generations of painters were educated under the landscapes and colors of the Crimean South Coast. And today at each step you will encounter young talents and grey-haired masters with sketch-books trying to capture the elusive beauty of magnificent sceneries, in the meandering lanes of the old town.
A whole legion of writers explored Gurzuf in search of artistic inspiration, enjoying good company and superb local wines: A. Gorky, A. Kuprin, D. Mamin-Sibiryak, Mayakovskiy, Tsvetayeva and many others.
F. Shaliapin, big friend of Korovin, was a man genuinely in love with Gurzuf. Fiodor Shaliapin entered into history records of the seaside town owing not only to his performances in halls and parks, but also due to the fact that the great Russian singer intended to build a temple of arts and music school for gifted children in Gurzuf, therefore he negotiated with the owner of the fashionable resort Suuk-Su, Countess Soloviova, to sell him the plot. Shaliapin chose a high cliff over the sea for his creation, where he used to perform arias while facing the enraged elements. Incidentally, there is the famous Pushkin Grotto just at the foot of the cliff from the seaside. As a result of persistent talks, the countess signed the deed of purchase, however, the noble idea was not destined to become reality - war and revolution impeded. Memory of that event remained in the name of the Shaliapin Cliff.
Boris Tomashevskiy (1890-1957) did a lot to study cultural life in the Crimea, and Gurzuf in particular. A prominent researcher of Pushkin, he took the lead in establishing the poet's museum in Gurzuf, which received the first visitors as early as in July 1938. For a long time, Tomashevskiy had been renting a cottage in Gurzuf near the Chekhov Cottage, admiring the company of O. Knipper-Chakhov and her guests, and in 1952, he moved to a more tranquil place – an old small house in the Krymskaya Street, lurking under the cypresses that, as the word has it, saw Pushkin and Mitskevich as well. And as it often happened in the history of Gurzuf, the quiet house became haven for a galaxy of men of art and distinguished individuals. Richter, Brodsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Kaverin lived and worked there in different periods of time...
The famous ballet-master Marius Petipa (1818-1910), who spent his last years in Gurzuf, was among a number of those who chose to live in the fascinating town.
And today Gurzuf attracts prominent men of art and culture. Artistic and sculptural plein airs are regularly held, many feature films are shot, and conferences and workshops are conducted there.