In 1942, Van Dyke enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and ended up in the special services unit. There, he performed in shows and hosted a radio show. After being discharged from the service in 1945, Van Dyke tried his hand at advertising, but after realizing that the business wasn't a good match for him, he joined novelty lip-synching act the "Merry Mutes" and moved to California.
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. Van Gogh prepared for the University of Amsterdam theology entrance examination; 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.
In his younger years, Van Dyke considered becoming a minister. He abandoned this ambition, however, after joining high high school's drama club, and developing his singing and dancing skills in school musicals. His classmates included actor Donald O'Connor and entertainer Bobby Short. Around this time, Van Dyke landed his first professional job, working part-time at a local radio station.
What particularly struck me when I saw the old Dutch paintings again is that they were usually painted quickly. That these great masters like Hals, Rembrandt, Ruisdael – so many others – as far as possible just put it straight down – and didn't come back to it so very much. And – this, too, please – that if it worked, they left it alone. Above all I admired hands by Rembrandt and Hals – hands that lived, but were not finished in the sense that people want to enforce nowadays ... In the winter I'm going to explore various things regarding manner that I noticed in the old paintings. I saw a great deal that I needed. But this above all things – what they call – dashing off – you see that's what the old Dutch painters did famously. That – dashing off – with a few brushstrokes, they won't hear of it now – but how true the results are.
He wrote that they represented his "sadness and extreme loneliness", and that the "canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside". Wheatfield with Crows, although not his last oil work, is from July 1890 and Hulsker discusses it as being associated with "melancholy and extreme loneliness". Hulsker identifies seven oil paintings from Auvers that follow the completion of Wheatfield with Crows.
In preparation for Gauguin's visit, Van Gogh bought two beds on advice from the station's postal supervisor Joseph Roulin, whose portrait he painted. On 17 September he spent his first night in the still sparsely furnished Yellow House. When Gauguin consented to work and live in Arles with him, Van Gogh started to work on the Décoration for the Yellow House, probably the most ambitious effort he ever undertook. He completed two chair paintings: Van Gogh's Chair and Gauguin's Chair.
Late in November 1881, Van Gogh wrote a letter to Johannes Stricker, one which he described to Theo as an attack. Within days he left for Amsterdam. Kee would not meet him, and her parents wrote that his "persistence is disgusting". In despair, he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, with the words: "Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame." He did not recall the event well, but later assumed that his uncle had blown out the flame. Kee's father made it clear that her refusal should be heeded and that the two would not marry, largely because of Van Gogh's inability to support himself.