After Van Gogh's first exhibitions in the late 1880s, his reputation grew steadily among artists, art critics, dealers and collectors.[262] In 1887 André Antoine hung Van Gogh's alongside works of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, at the Théâtre Libre in Paris; some were acquired by Julien Tanguy.[263] In 1889 his work was described in the journal Le Moderniste Illustré by Albert Aurier as characterised by "fire, intensity, sunshine".[264] Ten paintings were shown at the Société des Artistes Indépendants, in Brussels in January 1890.[265] French president Marie François Sadi Carnot was said to have been impressed by Van Gogh's work.[266]
In these series, Van Gogh was not preoccupied by his usual interest in filling his paintings with subjectivity and emotion; rather the two series are intended to display his technical skill and working methods to Gauguin,[134] who was about to visit. The 1888 paintings were created during a rare period of optimism for the artist. Vincent wrote to Theo in August 1888, "I'm painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when it's a question of painting large sunflowers ... If I carry out this plan there'll be a dozen or so panels. The whole thing will therefore be a symphony in blue and yellow. I work on it all these mornings, from sunrise. Because the flowers wilt quickly and it's a matter of doing the whole thing in one go."[243]
Van Gogh returned to Etten in April 1881 for an extended stay with his parents.[54] He continued to draw, often using his neighbours as subjects. In August 1881, his recently widowed cousin, Cornelia "Kee" Vos-Stricker, daughter of his mother's older sister Willemina and Johannes Stricker, arrived for a visit. He was thrilled and took long walks with her. Kee was seven years older than he was, and had an eight-year-old son. Van Gogh surprised everyone by declaring his love to her and proposing marriage.[55] She refused with the words "No, nay, never" ("nooit, neen, nimmer").[56] After Kee returned to Amsterdam, Van Gogh went to The Hague to try to sell paintings and to meet with his second cousin, Anton Mauve. Mauve was the successful artist Van Gogh longed to be.[57] Mauve invited him to return in a few months, and suggested he spend the intervening time working in charcoal and pastels; Van Gogh went back to Etten and followed this advice.[57]

Poverty may have pushed Sien back into prostitution; the home became less happy and Van Gogh may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic development. Sien gave her daughter to her mother, and baby Willem to her brother.[78] Willem remembered visiting Rotterdam when he was about 12, when an uncle tried to persuade Sien to marry to legitimise the child.[79] He believed Van Gogh was his father, but the timing of his birth makes this unlikely.[80] Sien drowned herself in the River Scheldt in 1904.[81]
On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a 7mm Lefaucheux à broche revolver.[186][187] There were no witnesses and he died 30 hours after the incident.[160] The shooting may have taken place in the wheat field in which he had been painting, or a local barn.[188] The bullet was deflected by a rib and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs – probably stopped by his spine. He was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, where he was attended to by two doctors, but without a surgeon present the bullet could not be removed. The doctors tended to him as best they could, then left him alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning Theo rushed to his brother's side, finding him in good spirits. But within hours Vincent began to fail, suffering from an untreated infection resulting from the wound. He died in the early hours of 29 July. According to Theo, Vincent's last words were: "The sadness will last forever".[189][190][191][192]
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]
Lived with Michelle Triola from 1976 until her death in 2009. Van Dyke had become friendly with her before his marriage ended and in his autobiography he admits that the final cause of his divorce from his wife was when he gave Michelle Triola out of his own pocket the six-figure amount she had sued for unsuccessfully in her infamous "palimony" case against Lee Marvin.
Van Gogh learned about Fernand Cormon's atelier from Theo.[107] He worked at the studio in April and May 1886,[108] where he frequented the circle of the Australian artist John Peter Russell, who painted his portrait in 1886.[109] Van Gogh also met fellow students Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – who painted a portrait of him in pastel. They met at Julien "Père" Tanguy's paint shop,[108] (which was, at that time, the only place where Paul Cézanne's paintings were displayed). In 1886, two large exhibitions were staged there, showing Pointillism and Neo-impressionism for the first time, and bringing attention to Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Theo kept a stock of Impressionist paintings in his gallery on boulevard Montmartre, but Van Gogh was slow to acknowledge the new developments in art.[110]
Many of the late paintings are sombre but essentially optimistic and, right up to the time of Van Gogh's death, reflect his desire to return to lucid mental health. Yet some of his final works reflect his deepening concerns.[257][258] Writing in July 1890, from Auvers, Van Gogh said that he had become absorbed "in the immense plain against the hills, boundless as the sea, delicate yellow".[181]
For years, Van Dyke struggled financially and professionally. He and his first wife, Margie, married on a radio show called Bride and Groom in 1948, in part because the program paid for the ceremony and gave them a free honeymoon. In the late 1940s and early '50s, Van Dyke worked in radio and television in Atlanta and New Orleans. He landed a seven-year contract with CBS in the early 1950s, but was let go after three years.
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After seeing the portrait of Adolphe Monticelli at the Galerie Delareybarette, Van Gogh adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, particularly in paintings such as his Seascape at Saintes-Maries (1888).[104][105] Two years later, Vincent and Theo paid for the publication of a book on Monticelli paintings, and Vincent bought some of Monticelli's works to add to his collection.[106]
By this time van Gogh was ready for such lessons, and the changes that his painting underwent in Paris between the spring of 1886 and February 1888 led to the creation of his personal idiom and style of brushwork. His palette at last became colourful, his vision less traditional, and his tonalities lighter, as may be seen in his first paintings of Montmartre. By the summer of 1887 he was painting in pure colours and using broken brushwork that is at times pointillistic. Finally, by the beginning of 1888, van Gogh’s Post-Impressionist style had crystallized, resulting in such masterpieces as Portrait of Père Tanguy and Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel, as well as in some landscapes of the Parisian suburbs.
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