Theo van Gogh PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 17:14

Theo van Gogh

Born: July 23, 1957, the Hague, Netherlands

Died: November 2, 2004, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Age: 47

Cause of death: Shot 8 times.

Notable because:  Related to a famous dutch painter,  Theo was killed by Mohammed Bouyeri, a follower of the prophet Muhammad, who illustrated how the Quran benefits its followers by following his 8 shots into Theo's body by slicing his throat and stabbing him in the chest.

Theo Van Gogh was a Dutch film director, television producer, publicist and actor. He was a descendant of Theo van Gogh, the brother of painter Vincent van Gogh. He was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004

Theo van Gogh was born in The Hague. His great-grandfather was art dealer Theo van Gogh, brother of Vincent van Gogh. His father, Johan van Gogh, was a member of the Dutch secret service ('AIVD', then called 'BVD'). Theo's uncle, also named Theo, was executed as a resistance fighter during the German occupation.

After dropping out of law school, Theo van Gogh became a stage manager. His self-proclaimed passion was filmmaking, and he debuted as a director with the movie Luger (1981). He received a Gouden Kalf ("Golden Calf", the Dutch equivalent of the Oscar) for Blind Date (1996) and In het belang van de staat ("In the Interest of the State", 1997). For the latter, he also received a "Certificate of Merit" from the San Francisco International Film Festival. As an actor he appeared in the production De noorderlingen ("The Northerners", 1992). After that, he worked for television and wrote provocative columns for Metro and other newspapers.

Van Gogh was a writer of polemic prose. His often aggressive tone and personal animosities got him involved in a number of public lawsuits against other writers and public figures, and got him fired as a columnist at a succession of magazines and periodicals. This forced him to seek refuge in his own website, called De Gezonde Roker ("The Healthy Smoker"). site's name, which is also the title of one of his books, was an allusion to his notorious chain smoking and to the 'politically correct' negative stance towards smoking in society. In general, Van Gogh had a strongly nihilistic outlook on life, as displayed by episodes of heavy drinking, his open use of the drug cocaine and a cynical view of love relationships. (Later in life, he would adopt a healthier lifestyle, claiming it was for the sake of his son.)

Although he seemed to enjoy his life, he said he would not mind dying if it were not for his young son. His last book (2003) was Allah weet het beter ("Allah Knows Best") in which he presented his views on Islam in his typically cynical, mocking tone. He was a well-known critic of Islam, particularly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He supported the nomination of the liberal (former PvdALabour Party), Somalian-born female politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali for Dutch parliament.

Van Gogh was a member of the Dutch republican society Republikeins Genootschap which advocates the abolition of the Dutch monarchy, and a friend and supporter of the controversial Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn who was assassinated in 2002. He was also a staunch supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although he revised his stance to a more neutral one in 2004.

Although Van Gogh was known as a friendly, tolerant character in person, in the 1980s he became a newspaper columnist, and through the years he used his columns to vent his anger at politicians, actors, film directors, writers and other people he considered to be part of "the establishment".

He incurred the anger of leading members of the Jewish community by making comments about what he saw as the Jewish preoccupation with Auschwitz. This quote from a 1991 magazine interview is a typical example of such commentary. Van Gogh explained a "smell of caramel" by stating that "today they're only burning diabetic Jews". When he was criticized by the Jewish historian Evelien Gans, he wrote in Folia Civitatis magazine: "I suspect that Ms. Gans gets wet dreams about being fucked by Dr Mengele." He also expressed the wish that she would sue him so that she would have to explain in court why his remarks were false.

Van Gogh rejected every form of religion. In the late 1990s he started to focus on Islam. He felt strongly that political Islam is an increasing threat to liberal western societies, and said that, if he'd been younger, he would have emigrated to the U.S.A., which he considered to be a beacon of light in a darkening world.

One of the few politicians who seemed to be exempt from Van Gogh's criticisms was the libertarian leader Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2002. Van Gogh usually referred to him as the divine baldhead. After the death of Fortuyn, Van Gogh continued attacking the remaining members of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn as he did other politicians. His political idol from then on was Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Working from a script written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, van Gogh created the 10-minute movie Submission. The movie deals with the topic of violence against women in some Islamic societies; telling the stories of four abused Muslim women. The title itself, "Submission", is a translation of the word "Islam" into English. In the film, women's naked bodies are veiled with semi-transparent shrouds as they kneel in prayer, telling their stories as if they are speaking to Allah. Qur'anic verses unfavourable to women are projected onto their bodies in Arabic. In August 2004, after the movie's broadcast on Dutch public TV, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on claims of plagiarism against Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh, made by internet journalist Francisco van Jole. Van Jole said the duo had "aped" the ideas of Iranian-American video artist Shirin Neshat. Neshat's work, which made abundant use of Arabic text projected onto bodies, had been shown in the Netherlands in 1997 and 2000. After the broadcast of Submission, Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali also received death threats. Van Gogh did not take these very seriously and refused any protection, reportedly telling Ayaan Hirsi Ali: "Nobody kills the village idiot", a term he frequently used to refer to himself.

Place where Van Gogh was killed
Demonstration at the Dam square after Van Gogh was killed

Mohammed Bouyeri murdered Van Gogh in the early morning of Tuesday November 2, 2004, in Amsterdam, in front of the Amsterdam East borough office (stadsdeelkantoor) on the corner of the Linnaeusstraat and Tweede Oosterparkstraat  while he was bicycling to work.

He shot him eight times with an HS 2000 handgun, and Van Gogh died on the spot. Bouyeri then cut Van Gogh's throat, nearly decapitating him, and stabbed him in the chest. Two knives were left implanted in his torso, one attaching a five-page note to his body. The note (Text) threatened Western governments, Jews and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who went into hiding). The note also contained references to the ideologies of the Egyptian organization Takfir wal-Hijra.

The killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch citizen, was apprehended by the police after being shot in the leg. Bouyeri has alleged terrorist ties with the Dutch Hofstad Network. He was also charged with the attempted murder of a police officer and bystander, illegal possession of a firearm, and conspiring to murder others, including Hirsi Ali. He was convicted on July 26, 2005 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Imam Fawaz of the as-Sunnah Mosque in The Hague gave a sermon several weeks before the murder in which he called Theo van Gogh, "a 'criminal bastard' and beseech[ed] Allah to visit an incurable disease upon the filmmaker."

A few days after the murder, one of Van Gogh's intimate friends delivered an open letter to "Mohammed B. and his friends" on Dutch television.

Van Gogh was cremated on November 9, 2004 in Amsterdam. During the memorial service, Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" was played; a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of liquor were placed on the coffin.

The day after the murder, Dutch police arrested eight Muslim radicals belonging to a group later referred to as the Hofstad Network. Six detainees were Dutch-Moroccans, one was Dutch-Algerian and one had dual Spanish-Moroccan nationality.

Following the murder, the Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI) received many complaints about websites praising the murder and making death threats against other people.

At the same time, starting with four attempted arson attacks on mosques in the weekend of 5-7 November, a significant number of apparently retaliatory violent incidents and arson attacks took place. The Dutch Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia recorded a total of 106 violent incidents against Muslim targets in November. The National Dutch Police Services Agency (KLPD) recorded 31 occasions of violence against mosques and Islamic schools between 23 November and 13 March 2005. The case that drew most attention was an arson attack that led to the destruction of a Muslim primary school in Uden in December 2004.

By November 8, Christian churches were in turn targeted in vandalism and arson attacks. A report for the Anne Frank Foundation and the University of Leiden, which counted a total of 174 violent incidents between 2-30 November, specifies that mosques were the target of violence 47 times, and churches 13 times.

The murder widened and polarized the debate in the Netherlands about the position of the more than one million Muslims, and how they would be affected. Some Dutch citizens fear that the Netherlands will lose its traditional tolerance and Western liberalism, becoming increasingly influenced by Islamic viewpoints. These fears are fueled by population growth studies and projections that show the Muslim community growing much faster than that of the "autochtonen" (autochthonous Dutch). On the other hand, many Islamic Dutch residents feel discriminated against and singled out. The increasing polarization has led to calls from many religious leaders and politicians for calm and improved communication between the communities.

In an apparent reaction against controversial statements about the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish religions, such as those Theo van Gogh was renowned for, the Dutch Minister of Justice, Christian Democrat Piet Hein Donner, suggested the existing Dutch blasphemy laws should either be applied more stringently or made stricter. This had led to a counter call by the liberal D66 party to scrap the blasphemy laws altogether. This was rejected in parliament by the Dutch Christian parties and the Dutch Labour Party.

De Schreeuw (The Scream) Memorial commemorating Theo van Gogh and a symbol of the freedom of speech

Independent Dutch member of parliament Geert Wilders (who was previously forced to leave the right-wing VVD party because of his views) advocated a five-year halt to non-Western immigration in the wake of the murder of Theo van Gogh, stating: "The Netherlands has been too tolerant to intolerant people for too long. We should not import a retarded political Islamic society to our country". In opposition to such sentiments, campaigns for a kleurrijk Nederland [colorful Netherlands], such as Stop de Hetze (Stop the Witch Hunt) were started.

Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali went into hiding for several weeks. Wilders has been under the protection of bodyguards ever since and Hirsi Ali eventually relocated to the United States.

Theo van Gogh's son claims he has been attacked on several occasions by young people of Moroccan and Turkish descent, and that the police did not provide him with any help or protection. The police deny receiving any report of attacks.

On March 18, 2007, a sculpture in memory of Theo van Gogh was unveiled in Amsterdam, De Schreeuw (The Scream). It is located in the Oosterpark, just a short distance from where van Gogh was murdered.

A private trust, the Foundation for Freedom of Expression was established to help fund protection for critics of Islam and Muslims.

There was controversy in the English-speaking world after an article was published in the magazine Index on Censorship that to many readers seemed to condone or attempt to justify Van Gogh's murder. The article, by the magazine's Associate Editor Rohan Jayasekera, claimed that Van Gogh was a "free-speech fundamentalist" who had been on a "martyrdom operation[,] roar[ing] his Muslim critics into silence with obscenities" in an "abuse of his right to free speech". Describing van Gogh's film Submission as "furiously provocative", Jayasekera concluded by describing his death as:

A sensational climax to a lifetime's public performance, stabbed and shot by a bearded fundamentalist, a message from the killer pinned by a dagger to his chest, Theo van Gogh became a martyr to free expression. His passing was marked by a magnificent barrage of noise as Amsterdam hit the streets to celebrate him in the way the man himself would have truly appreciated.
And what timing! Just as his long-awaited biographical film of Pim Fortuyn's life is ready to screen. Bravo, Theo! Bravo!

There were many protests from both left- and right-wing commentators at the article, and Nick Cohen of The Observer (London)' wrote in December 2004, that:

When I asked Jayasekera if he had any regrets, he said he had none. He told me that, like many other readers, I shouldn't have made the mistake of believing that Index on Censorship was against censorship, even murderous censorship, on principle – in the same way as Amnesty International is opposed to torture, including murderous torture, on principle. It may have been so in its radical youth, but was now as concerned with fighting 'hate speech' as protecting free speech.

Nick Cohen's opinion was repudiated by the editor of Index on Censorship in a letter to The Observer. Jayasekera himself has indeed expressed regrets and has put his own case for speaking his mind on Van Gogh's life legacy on the Index website.


The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Penguin Classics)

Author: Vincent Van Gogh
Manufacturer: Penguin Classics
Amazon Price: $18.00
Offers - Buy New From: $7.95 Used From: $5.00
Buy Now
Editorial Review: "If ever there was any doubt that Van Gogh's letters belong beside those great classics of artistic self-revelation, Cellini's autobiography and Delacroix's journal, this excellent edition dispels it." 
—The Times (London)

"Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all."

Few artists' letters are as self-revelatory as Vincent Van Gogh's, and the selection included here, spanning the whole of his artistic career, sheds light on every facet of the life and work of this complex and tortured man. Engaging candidly and movingly with his religious struggles, his ill-fated search for love, his intense relationship with his brother Theo and his attacks of mental illness, the letters contradict the popular image of Van Gogh as an anti-social madman and a martyr to art, showing instead that he was capable of great emotional and spiritual depths. Above all, they stand as an intense personal narrative of artistic development and a unique account of the process of creation.
The letters are linked by explanatory biographical passages, revealing Van Gogh's inner journey as well as the outer facts of his life. This edition includes the drawings that originally illustrated the letters.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Author: Deborah Heiligman
Manufacturer: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Amazon Price: $19.99
Offers - Buy New From: $13.51
Buy Now
Editorial Review:

From the author of National Book Award finalist Charles and Emma comes an incredible story of brotherly love.

The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend―Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the extraordinary love of the Van Gogh brothers.


Vincent's Colors

Author: Vincent van Gogh
Manufacturer: Chronicle Books
Amazon Price: $15.99
Offers - Buy New From: $7.56 Used From: $2.50
Buy Now
Editorial Review: Vincent van Gogh is one of the world's most famous artists. Throughout his life, he wrote to his younger brother, Theo, about his colorful, dynamic paintings. This book pairs the artist's paintings with his own words.

Van Gogh's descriptions, arranged as a simple rhyme, introduce young readers to all the colors of the rainbowand beyond. The descriptive words combine with spectacular reproductions of many of the artist's most beloved and important works to create a perfect art book for young and old alike.


Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh

Manufacturer: Plume
Amazon Price: $17.00
Offers - Buy New From: $5.49 Used From: $2.91
Buy Now
Editorial Review: “Written from the heart and without restraint, alive.”—The New York Times

Vincent van Gogh, the great but tormented artist, bared his tortured yet ecstatic soul in his letters to his confidant and companion, his beloved brother Theo. These letters reveal the man behind such masterpieces as The Starry Night and The Bedroom—a desperate man whose quest for love became a flight into madness and for whom every day was a “fight for life.”

Irving Stone, acclaimed author of Lust for Life and other remarkable biographic novels, has collected Vincent van Gogh’s fascinating letters to Theo. Here we see the great artist as a human being as well as a man with an appointment with destiny. Van Gogh is a man struggling with doubts and fears, beset by poverty and mental illness, but also a painter who dares to break all the rules of academic art to create priceless masterpieces never honored during his lifetime. He was part of the coterie of great artists of his day while as the same time an intimate of aging streetwalkers. These letters are outpourings of his soul that paint a vibrant self-portrait in words equal to the intensity and emotion his painting created. This is the personal story of a legend.


On the Verge of Insanity: Van Gogh and His Illness

Author: Nienke Bakker
Manufacturer: Mercatorfonds
Amazon Price: $30.00
Offers - Buy New From: $19.94 Used From: $20.38
Buy Now
Editorial Review:
Accompanying the groundbreaking exhibition currently at the Van Gogh Museum, this publication features new information on Van Gogh's self-inflicted wound to his ear as well as identifying the revolver that was likely used in his suicide

The mental state of Vincent van Gogh (1853--1890) has been a perennial source of discussion and conjecture since his death by suicide. Was he mentally ill or a genius? What was the precise nature of Van Gogh’s illness? Did it influence his work? This intriguing publication examines how Van Gogh’s mental condition revealed itself in 1888 and how he struggled with it throughout his life. Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo, his artist friends, and his sister Willemien reveal that his primary reason for living was his art.

Richly illustrated with artworks, letters, previously unpublished historical documents, and photographs, On the Verge of Insanity provides a nuanced and considered overview of an extraordinary man who had to cope with mental illness at a time when the symptoms were readily misunderstood and professional treatment was insufficient. The authors also offer a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding Van Gogh’s death in Auvers-sur-Oise, and they review the many diagnoses that have been proposed since the artist's death. 


Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 09:08

Add comment

Security code

Who's Online

We have 110 guests online