Segments in this Video

"A Colorful Life" Introduction (03:51)


Czar Nicolas II embraced Western knowledge and culture in an effort to modernize. Fourteen students, known as the Wanderers, left the Imperial Academy of Arts to paint Russian peasants in the Western style. Kandinsky's 1907 work reveres traditional culture and folklore.

Journey to North Russia (02:42)

As a Moscow law student in 1889, Kandinsky toured peasant courts in the north where he was struck by landscapes and poverty. While ill with a fever, he experienced a hallucination that inspired "A Colorful Life."

"A Colorful Life" Symbolism (04:00)

Kandinsky's painting is set in the village where he contracted typhus. Hear a description of its subjects and stories evoking Russian folklore and iconography.

"A Colorful Life" Composition (01:39)

Kandinsky includes an izba, or traditional wooden hut, evoking the folklore character Baba Yaga. He uses an aerial perspective, imitating woodcut prints called Lubki.

Struggle to Conserve Russian Culture (01:55)

Kandinsky refused to embrace Western thought and joined Dostoyevsky's movement resisting modernization. Dostoyevsky condemned the Wanderers for mimicking Western art.

Russian Symbolist Movement (02:31)

When J. J. Thompson proved electron existence in 1897, Kandinsky rejected rational thought and left law school to paint. He was inspired by Froebel and Gauguin, who lamented a lost golden age.

Search for the Golden Age (03:22)

Kandinsky was exposed to other artists on trips to Western Europe. "A Colorful Life" is a response to Gauguin's "Where Do We Come From" and seeks to express the musical side of Russia. He uses Tempera paint and a dark background to brighten colors.

Psychological Color Philosophy (02:37)

Goethe's Theory of Colors inspired Kandisky's "Yellow-Red-Blue." For him, light was symbolic and sensual. Wagner's "Lohengrin" and Rimington's color organ also led him to transcribe sound into painting, and use abstract forms to communicate emotionally.

Approaching Abstraction (02:37)

Hear an analysis of motifs in "A Colorful Life" that later appeared in Kandinsky's abstract works. He participated in the Soviet project for four years before a self-imposed exile.

Credits: Colorful Life by Wassily Kandinsky: Smart Secrets of Great Paintings (00:40)

Credits: Colorful Life by Wassily Kandinsky: Smart Secrets of Great Paintings

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Colorful Life by Wassily Kandinsky: Smart Secrets of Great Paintings

Part of the Series : Smart Secrets of Great Paintings
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $129.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $194.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $129.95



The roots of A Colorful Life, just like those of Wassily Kandinsky himself, were firmly anchored in age-old Russian soil.  And yet the painting contains all the elements that were to accompany the painter in the greatest revolution in the history of art: the leap into abstraction. This documentary examines Kandinsky’s rejection of Western thought and efforts to preserve Russian culture during modernization. He contracted typhus during a trip to study peasant life; his feverish hallucinations inspired the work that evokes a forgotten golden age sought after by Russian Symbolist painters and poets. Finally, viewers learn about the philosophies on color and light that led him to compose his famous Yellow-Red-Blue.

Length: 27 minutes

Item#: BVL114923

ISBN: 978-1-68272-877-2

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.