"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
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