Van Gogh strove to be a painter of rural life and nature,[212] and during his first summer in Arles he used his new palette to paint landscapes and traditional rural life.[213] His belief that a power existed behind the natural led him to try to capture a sense of that power, or the essence of nature in his art, sometimes through the use of symbols.[214] His renditions of the sower, at first copied from Jean-François Millet, reflect Van Gogh's religious beliefs: the sower as Christ sowing life beneath the hot sun.[215] These were themes and motifs he returned to often to rework and develop.[216] His paintings of flowers are filled with symbolism, but rather than use traditional Christian iconography he made up his own, where life is lived under the sun and work is an allegory of life.[217] In Arles, having gained confidence after painting spring blossoms and learning to capture bright sunlight, he was ready to paint The Sower.[208]
Though The Dick Van Dyke Show got off to a slow start, it eventually developed quite a following; Van Dyke won over audiences with his good humor and likeability, and won three Emmy Awards for his work on the series. Decades after the show went off the air, in 1966, it remained a popular program in syndication. Following the show's end in 1966, Van Dyke starred on several other TV series, including The New Dick Van Dyke Show, but none captured the public's heart the way his first sitcom did.
In December 1888 he painted La Berceuse – a figure that he thought as good as his sunflowers. It has a limited palette, varied brushstrokes and simple contours.[219] It appears to be a culmination of portraits of the Roulin family completed in Arles between November and December. The portraits show a shift in style from the fluid, restrained brushstrokes and even surface of Portrait of the Postman to the frenetic style, rough surface, broad brushstrokes and use of a palette knife in Madame Roulin with Baby.[229]

The Flowering Orchards (also the Orchards in Blossom) are among the first groups of work completed after Van Gogh's arrival in Arles in February 1888. The 14 paintings are optimistic, joyous and visually expressive of the burgeoning spring. They are delicately sensitive and unpopulated. He painted swiftly, and although he brought to this series a version of Impressionism, a strong sense of personal style began to emerge during this period. The transience of the blossoming trees, and the passing of the season, seemed to align with his sense of impermanence and belief in a new beginning in Arles. During the blossoming of the trees that spring, he found "a world of motifs that could not have been more Japanese".[252] Vincent wrote to Theo on 21 April 1888 that he had 10 orchards and "one big [painting] of a cherry tree, which I've spoiled".[253]


Van Gogh's stylistic developments are usually linked to the periods he spent living in different places across Europe. He was inclined to immerse himself in local cultures and lighting conditions, although he maintained a highly individual visual outlook throughout. His evolution as an artist was slow, and he was aware of his painterly limitations. He moved home often, perhaps to expose himself to new visual stimuli, and through exposure develop his technical skill.[224] Art historian Melissa McQuillan believes the moves also reflect later stylistic changes, and that Van Gogh used the moves to avoid conflict, and as a coping mechanism for when the idealistic artist was faced with the realities of his then current situation.[225]
To support his religious conviction and his desire to become a pastor, in 1877 the family sent him to live with his uncle Johannes Stricker, a respected theologian, in Amsterdam.[42] Van Gogh prepared for the University of Amsterdam theology entrance examination;[43] he failed the exam, and left his uncle's house in July 1878. He undertook, but also failed, a three-month course at a Protestant missionary school in Laken, near Brussels.[44]
Absolutely terrible experience! We bought a sectional from here and initially the experience was good. Sasha, the salesperson was great to work with and patient. That quickly changed. The leg on the ottoman was broken so we had to get that fixed. When we went to move a few months later, we noticed the back of the couch was broken (the delivery guys put it against the wall so we had never seen it). We had it serviced and were without that piece for over a week.
Between 1885 and his death in 1890, Van Gogh appears to have been building an oeuvre,[221] a collection that reflected his personal vision, and could be commercially successful. He was influenced by Blanc's definition of style, that a true painting required optimal use of colour, perspective and brushstrokes. Van Gogh applied the word "purposeful" to paintings he thought he had mastered, as opposed to those he thought of as studies.[222] He painted many series of studies;[218] most of which were still lifes, many executed as colour experiments or as gifts to friends.[223] The work in Arles contributed considerably to his oeuvre: those he thought the most important from that time were The Sower, Night Cafe, Memory of the Garden in Etten and Starry Night. With their broad brushstrokes, inventive perspectives, colours, contours and designs, these paintings represent the style he sought.[219]
The name of van Gogh was virtually unknown when he killed himself: only one article about him had appeared during his lifetime. He had exhibited a few canvases at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris between 1888 and 1890 and in Brussels in 1890; both salons showed small commemorative groups of his work in 1891. One-man shows of his work did not occur until 1892.
Van Gogh's mother came from a prosperous family in The Hague,[19] and his father was the youngest son of a minister.[20] The two met when Anna's younger sister, Cornelia, married Theodorus's older brother Vincent (Cent). Van Gogh's parents married in May 1851 and moved to Zundert.[21] His brother Theo was born on 1 May 1857. There was another brother, Cor, and three sisters: Elisabeth, Anna, and Willemina (known as "Wil"). In later life Van Gogh remained in touch only with Willemina and Theo.[22] Van Gogh's mother was a rigid and religious woman who emphasised the importance of family to the point of claustrophobia for those around her.[23] Theodorus's salary was modest, but the Church supplied the family with a house, a maid, two cooks, a gardener, a carriage and horse, and Anna instilled in the children a duty to uphold the family's high social position.[24]

Among Van Dyke's high school classmates in Danville were Donald O'Connor and Bobby Short, both of whom would go on to successful careers as entertainers.[10] One of his closest friends was a cousin of Gene Hackman, the future actor, who also lived in Danville in those years.[10] Van Dyke's mother's family was very religious, and for a brief period in his youth, he considered a career in ministry, although a drama class in high school convinced him that his true calling was as a professional entertainer.[10] In his autobiography, he wrote, "I suppose that I never completely gave up my childhood idea of being a minister. Only the medium and the message changed. I have still endeavored to touch people's souls, to raise their spirits and put smiles on their faces."[10] Even after the launch of his career as an entertainer, he taught Sunday school in the Presbyterian Church, where he was an elder, and he continued to read such theologians as Buber, Tillich, and Bonhoeffer, who helped explain in practical terms the relevance of religion in everyday life.[10]
Van Gogh had no recollection of the event, suggesting that he may have suffered an acute mental breakdown.[147] The hospital diagnosis was "acute mania with generalised delirium",[148] and within a few days the local police ordered that he be placed in hospital care.[149][150] Gauguin immediately notified Theo, who on 24 December had proposed marriage to his old friend Andries Bonger's sister Johanna.[151] That evening Theo rushed to the station to board a night train to Arles. He arrived on Christmas Day and comforted Vincent, who seemed to be semi-lucid. That evening he left Arles for the return trip to Paris.[152]
Ill from drink and suffering from smoker's cough, in February 1888 Van Gogh sought refuge in Arles.[14] He seems to have moved with thoughts of founding an art colony. The Danish artist Christian Mourier-Petersen became his companion for two months, and at first Arles appeared exotic. In a letter, he described it as a foreign country: "The Zouaves, the brothels, the adorable little Arlésienne going to her First Communion, the priest in his surplice, who looks like a dangerous rhinoceros, the people drinking absinthe, all seem to me creatures from another world."[114]
Van Gogh stayed within what he called the "guise of reality",[218] and was critical of overly stylised works.[219] He wrote afterwards that the abstraction of Starry Night had gone too far and that reality had "receded too far in the background".[219] Hughes describes it as a moment of extreme visionary ecstasy: the stars are in a great whirl, reminiscent of Hokusai's Great Wave, the movement in the heaven above is reflected by the movement of the cypress on the earth below, and the painter's vision is "translated into a thick, emphatic plasma of paint".[220]
Nevertheless, the twelve customers selected the colors and styles they desired, and were asked to return later in the afternoon to pick up their purchases. Paul Van Doren and Lee then rushed to the factory to manufacture the selected shoes. When the customers returned that afternoon to pick up their shoes, Paul Van Doren and Gordon C. Lee realized that they had forgotten to maintain a cash reserve to provide change to customers. The customers were therefore given the shoes and asked to return the following day with their payments. All twelve of the customers returned the following day to pay for their items.[6]
In 1892 Émile Bernard organised a small solo show of Van Gogh's paintings in Paris, and Julien Tanguy exhibited his Van Gogh paintings with several consigned from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. In April 1894 the Durand-Rue Gallery in Paris agreed to take 10 paintings on consignment from Van Gogh's estate.[269] In 1896, the Fauvist painter Henri Matisse, then an unknown art student, visited John Peter Russell on Belle Île off Brittany.[270][271] Russell had been a close friend of Van Gogh; he introduced Matisse to the Dutchman's work, and gave him a Van Gogh drawing. Influenced by Van Gogh, Matisse abandoned his earth-coloured palette for bright colours.[271][272]
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