Aad Donker

Aad was born in Denmark on May 15, 1967. He was helped into the world by a midwife Madame Gauguin, the granddaughter of the painter Gauguin who became a great inspiration for Aad. Traveling to the tropics and painting nature was inspired by his sake. Gauguin and Van Gogh, were the artists that inspired him most.

Only recently I have heard , especially through Gijs and Aad’s father, publisher Willem Donker, what happened in the last few years with Aad.
The time in New York was a big party. With the grant of the 120,000 guilders the “After Nature” boys bought a huge stock of painting oil and canvas and they hired models . The posh gallery Newburg at 550 Broadway was for two months the studio of the group. It buzzed throughout New York and the New York Times described them as “A bunch of crazy Dutch guys.” Soon the gallery a gathering place for artists and collectors became a cult place. Hordes of women emerged. The New York apartment that was made ​​available to them by the Dutch state was completely worn out while the amount of raw oil paint rapidly faded.

Aad DonkerGijs; ” The gallery on Broadway was one day visited by art student Amy with a group of young girls. The visit ended in an orgy in her apartment. Aad ended up with Amy in bed. From that moment Aad and Amy were together. ”
When the After Nature group was at the point of departure to the Netherlands she invited Aad to the Carnival in New Orleans. Aad continued to live for four years in Manhattan with Amy and her life gradually revealed itself in all its glory to him. Aad ended up in a world of wealth and influence, which was exciting and intriguing, but it frightened him also.
Gijs; ” Amy’s grandfather, from a poor Jewish family had fled from Eastern Europe and had built up from scratch one of the largest insurance companies in the country. She was the granddaughter of a self-made billionaire . Through its family Aad came in contact with the American establishment . Suddenly he was at the birthday party of Nixon and he dined with Jeff Koons and the Italian porn star Cicciolina . He could not talk about it with anyone; then he called me and said, ” Guess who is sitting next to me now? ” Elizabeth Taylor! in the home theater of the Warner family! ”
Willem Donker; ” You may wonder whether Aad was strong enough to bear this kind of wealth. ”
Gijs; ” Amy turned to heroin . Her monthly allowance of $ 35,000 was never enough, always she used other credit cards and bank accounts. Aad tried to get her off drugs, and at times succeeded to do so. To give a good example, he trained intensively. In the  morning sports, afternoon painting and in the evening he went to see his girl. ”
Aad boxed at Gleasons in Brooklyn, where Raymond Joval and Regilio Tuur trained. Tuur he had known for years and at Gleasons he became friends with the other boxers. He was one of the sparring partners of Don Diego Poeder. He was in such good condition that he knocked the Dutch heavyweight champion to the canvas in a training game in the Netherlands – while Aad was a light heavyweight. The Donker brothers painted several boxers and Aad even made ​​contact with Muhammad Ali to portray him.
Gijs; ‘ Aad became a hero for Amy’s family after he saved Amy’s mother her life during a riding trip in the mountains by pulling her away from under the horse she fell with in a stream – otherwise she was flooded. He received an American Express Goldcard and thus had access to unlimited funds. A generous guy like Aad knew how to give use to a small plastic “miracle” card . When he came here he brought for Just and me the finest oils and canvases. He looked like a barbarian, but once the card came out, everyone started to serve him as a king.”
Aad DonkerWillem Donker; ‘ Aad and Amy became engaged in 1994 in Amsterdam with a huge party at the Supperclub. The engagement ring from Tiffany’s costed a fortune. Their marriage was scheduled on Saturday, September 9th, 1995. From the Netherlands alone, about a hundred people would be flown to San Francisco, where the wedding would take place. The program was planned to perfection and from day to day and from hour to hour arranged. In short , it would be a fairy tale wedding.”
Gijs; ” Amy’s family was rather harsh on the marriage contract.” Amy was the sole heir. Her three brothers were disinherited because they had made ​​a complete chaos of their lives.
Aad feared that, if it should come to a divorce he would not be able to see his future kids. Any children with a U.S. passport can not simply leave the country. He did not just want to serve as a breeding bull for Amy’s family. In the case of a divorce he wanted visitation and he did not wanted to end up in the position that he could not see his kids and help educate them. In Aad’s own words : “I am an artist , I ‘m depending on what I earn with my paintings, if we ever divorce, I want a house and a modest benefit, so I can be near my children. ”
Willem Donker; ‘ Aad and Amy went around that time to Hawaii for a wedding of friends . From Hawaii they flew to New York, then to London and then to Pakistan to walk a couple of weeks in the mountains and rest. The marriage contract that the family wanted, also led to stress: in every hotel where they arrived were the faxes from the lawyer of Aad and family waiting.
Gijs; ” At K2, the second highest mountain in the Himalayas, Aad and Amy got snowed-in. There, at the foot of the mountain tensions grew. ”
Aad returned to the Netherlands. Amy was the great true love which nevertheless prevented that in mid-July 1995, a small printed card was distributed with the text: ” Amy and Adrian Dark regret to inform you that their wedding has been postponed.”
Aad retreated, following Gauguin to the tropics, and remained half a year in the jungle of Suriname. It is possible that he made ​​a first suicide attempt there. He came back with a large wound on his right wrist and a complicated story about a tree branch on which he hung to swing with a knife in his pocket. The work he did in the jungle was steeped in death; self-portraits with a gun against his head, a pistol in his mouth.
Lineke, Aad ‘s mother; ‘ Aad his last year has been a tough year. Due to increasing delusions and fears he increasingly withdrew himself back in his studio. If he was not understood, he felt abandoned and lonely. And we were often powerless to watch how he ended up in a private world where we could not follow and reach him. ”
In 1997, he traveled to Venezuela and to Spain.

portret14On 12 August he wrote while staying at a camping ” The smiling whale ” in Barcelona in his diary: ‘ Got up at half past 11, had a weird dream…was shot in my back (five bullet holes ). Bathing in my own blood and paralyzed I bubbled the last words out of my throat … luckily and suddenly I was at a bar with a few friends who gave me shoulder taps. On an otherwise blank page, he wrote in a column seventeen times “No” and at the bottom ‘Yes’.
Lineke; ” Fortunately there were lighthearted moments, moments of rest, relaxation and understanding, and then I said to Aad that everything would be ok, and then he said yes and that he was so glad I kept believing in him. Then he picked up his guitar and started playing and singing. The words he made up on the spot; it was invariably about love, loss and the desire to find that love back and loneliness and the hope for better times. It was about him and Amy. ”
Willem Donker; ” Amy was now embarked on a remarkable French-American sect. They stayed briefly in Paris, where Aad tried to visit her. Then she stayed in the United States at the Betty Ford rehab where Aad could come for a “family week” at her request. He was sent home by the management and subsequently arrived completely upset in the Netherlands. ”
His pupils were wide and his voice monotone. He told me that Amy had a new friend and was expecting a baby and he said he was very happy for her… ” The circle is complete, ” he said repeatedly. He claimed to be very famous. When he entered an empty restaurant it was full within fifteen minutes. He was dominated by fears. So he claimed to stay in a hotel that was inhabited by an army of psychologists who brainwashed him and then de-programmed him again. All billboards from Los Angeles to Leiden carried messages that were meant for him….
Gijs; “He was afraid that the sect would chase him because he had taken the goose with the golden eggs…. Aad was far from doing well, but there were few people who saw it. Outwardly he was a successful guy. Anyway most Dutch people think every artist is crazy.”
That image was confirmed by Aad. Possibly he was suffering from schizophrenia . A clear diagnosis was never made​​. His father thinks XTC, excessively smoking dope, drinking, and years of life in the studio between the oil vapors have helped to bring this out. Aad himself did not admit that he was doing bad, because he was too proud.
Lineke : ” We had seen the movie” Lagrimas Negras ” together about a group of old Cuban musicians which really moved him. “Aad said while watching the movie, I want to live as a painter and make music on a warm beautiful island , with a lovely wife. ” Will we go next summer? ” I told him that this was a good idea, but that we first had to learn to dance salsa together. Which was a good way to get him out of his isolation and increase his joy of life. We agreed that I would eat every Tuesday after work with him in the studio and that we would go to salsa afterwards.

Three months before the death of Aad, Amy gave birth to a child from the guy she had met in rehab. Gijs thinks that this was the final blow to his brother. Aad either dressed entirely in black, either entirely in white and he saw more and more things and “connections” that eluded others . The others were blind. He was really dealing with all types of texts and in the back of his head he heard voices. In the last few weeks he had more and more violent anxiety attacks.
Gijs realized that something was really wrong when Aad one evening came to him with African fighting sticks waving and repeatedly saying, “I am the king.” Shortly after midnight , he said: ” I go to daddy ” and walked towards Leiderdorp, while his father no longer lived there for twenty years. His father succeeded to get Aad to see a psychiatrist from the Mental Health Centre. Arriving there, Aad was polite and friendly. He got tranquillisers, and a follow-up appointment was made. Outside Aad threw the pills immediately into the canal and said, ” You see, even they want to poison me!”
He retired to his studio at the Rapenburg. No one was allowed there. It was a secret what he was doing. Gijs heard him pacing and talking to himself. He always said, ‘ It’s time to die. Hahaha! ”
lineke; “Every Tuesday he cooked for me, very healthy and delicious . Then he dressed nicely wearing a red rock ‘ n roll blouse or a hand painted black pants, shoes with leather soles , because it glides better. It went well for a while, he radiated again. Aad had (being very rhythmic) always danced a lot. His way of moving was very powerful and expressive. Too bad this lasted so shortly . When he thought he also saw members of the sect in the Dance School he stayed very close to me, he only wanted to dance with me. Outsiders thought is was touching this boy who only danced with his mother, but I knew he was terrified. ”

portret10The last weekend of October 1998 Aad went to his father. Together with his father and his wife Jos they all went to their cottage in the woods of Handelse. In the car Aad said, ‘ Dad, there resides a devil in me, I have hurt many people. ” His father assured him that it was really not the case and that many people just loved him, and forgave him everything. Aad slept that night in a big bed between his nephews Fela and Dali.
Willem Donker: “When Jos early next morning asked Aad if he had slept well Aad said; ” No, I just thought how I can end my life. ” It was the Sunday of All Hallows and very beautiful weather. During breakfast, Aad had a strange look in his eyes and said: “You have to stand above it when they call you in the Leiden Dagblad an SS man. ” I replied, ” Yeah dude , there you have to stand up. ” That was the only weird talking throughout the weekend. ”
During a long walk Aad noted that it lacked structure in his life. Jos proposed to do something about it and Aad responded enthusiastically on all her proposals. For the sixtieth anniversary of his father, he would paint portraits of his nephews.
Willem Donker  ” In the afternoon Aad had read the Bible in the tiny bedroom and said, ” I need to speak a priest.” Sadly, I did not do anything with that.  When I walked out that afternoon with him to the woodshed he put, as he did so often, his arm around me, his hand on my shoulder and said, ” Dad, you should never forget that you are my best friend ” and he said that afternoon casually: ” I wish I  could leave my legs behind for Nobbie.”  I heard him, but did not listen. Only when it was too late I understood the signals.
Aad also said : “Dad … would you mind if I would bring my life to an end?”
“That’s the worst thing that could happen to us,” replied his father. “Then I will not,” said Aad thereon.
On the way home in the car Aad was singing between Fela and Dali in the backseat. Around eight in the evening they arrived in Rotterdam. Aad was wearing one of the sleeping children to bed.
Willem Donker; “I even took some stuff out of the car and Aad stood in the doorway with a strange light in his eyes. “I go to Leiden, ” he said. ” Why don’t you stay here until tomorrow morning? ” I asked. “I have an appointment at my studio tonight, ” he replied. And I watched him as he left the square, turned the corner, and so, without me realizing it, forever disappeared from my life.”
Arriving in Leiden Aad first brought all his clothes to the mother of a friend who had broken his back and had exactly the same size, “I’m going to make a long trip and do not need those clothes.” Then he went to his studio, probably drank a pint of whiskey and smoked a few joints, after which he, in the midst of his paintings, by hanging himself put an end to his life.

portret_5Lineke: “I ‘d call him on Monday to confirm our appointment for Tuesday. At the weekend I have called to Handel, everything seemed quiet. Personally, I was getting restless. Monday I continually called to the studio, answering machine…. Monday night I went to the studio. Fearful silence. However his yellow bike stood in the hallway. Then I phoned friends, Riagg hospital, Willem, Gijs. Absolute panic and great fear because now I actually knew there was something wrong. Aad always showed up at his appointment!
Aad’s father drove later that week to the cottage in Handel to look for a sign of farewell and found under the big bed a drawing block with a beautiful drawing of the heads of Fela and Dali, deliquescent together. Aad his final drawing. Also in the studio at the Rapenburg Aad did not leave behind a written farewell, but two paintings: a self-portrait in which the face has become a hell sun, beneath the peace cross and the names of his brothers Gijs and Just and a self-portrait in which he sticks out his tongue. These paintings were, when he was found, wet and were arranged so that this had to be a farewell greeting.
Aad did not believe that life ended with death. He was the peacemaker and the writer of the family. Willem Donker: “He has always been a very nice, considerate, gentle, sweet and generous guy, but he could also be a bruiser.” Because Aad stuttered as a child, he learned early on to use his fists; he was a boxer and a poet. He was shadow boxing with ghosts and spirits. It was a battle – each painting was a battle. He had a strong will and was scrupulously honest. He was crazy with kids. He wanted to live on a farm, with lots of kids around. He was very strong and very sweet. Aad was like Ernst Voss called him ” The Gentle Giant .”

(Jaap Scholten)





Aad Donker