Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  52 minutes
Date:  2016
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Color/BW:  Color
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The Silence of Mark Rothko

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With his imposing canvasses, pure color and texture, Mark Rothko sought to express fundamental human emotions.

The Silence of Mark Rothko

'He wanted the viewer to step into the painting. What he aimed for was not a consumption of art, but a dialogue. He thought that art could transform the public.' -Annie Cohen-Solal, Mark Rothko biographer

Painter Mark Rothko is best known for imposing canvasses that eschew representation in favor of pure color and texture-using them to express fundamental human emotions.

In THE SILENCE OF MARK ROTHKO, we visit Rothko's studio at 22 Bowery in New York, and go to Florence's Museo di san Marco, where the monastic work of Renaissance painter Fra Angelico deeply influenced Rothko's mission to create environments and not just paintings. In The Hague, filmmaker Marjoleine Boonstra introduces us to curator Franz Kaiser of the Gemeentemuseum, as his team installs the works for the first major Rothko exhibit to be held in Holland in 40 years.

The film includes thoughtful, engaging commentary from experts including Rothko's biographer, Annie Cohen-Solal, and conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro (who speculates on whether splotches of paint on the studio floor may have been Rothko's). Fittingly though, for a film about a painter whose greatest works evoke both silence and emotion, THE SILENCE OF MARK ROTHKO lingers on paintings and locations - using architectural shots, interiors and streetscapes, to link Rothko's paintings to the world he inhabited.

Featuring works from his early mythological period, his classic color field paintings, his later Black on Grey pieces, and the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the film is a unique artistic biography that provides a heightened level of intimacy and familiarity with its subject's work through carefully chosen visuals and interviews.

Interspersed throughout are readings from the painter's writings by his son, Christopher -passages that illuminate and bring immediacy to Rothko's work and philosophy.

'A subtle and poignant documentary.' -Annie Cohen-Solal, author of Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel


** Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival
** Nederlands Film Festival
** International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)


Main credits

Boonstra, Marjoleine (film director)
Boonstra, Marjoleine (film producer)
Boonstra, Marjoleine (screenwriter)
Boonstra, Marjoleine (director of photography)
Janssen, Lies (screenwriter)
Janssen, Lies (film producer)

Other credits

Research, script, production, Lies Janssen; editing, Menno Boerama; music, Harry de Wit; translations, Helen Reid, Erik Pezarro.

Distributor credits

A film by Marjoleine Boonstra

Docuseek2 subjects

Cultural and Ethnic Studies

Distributor subjects

Color Field
Contemporary Art
Cultural Studies
Modern Art


; "The Silence of Mark Rothko"; Icarus Films

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