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]

There have been numerous debates as to the nature of Van Gogh's illness and its effect on his work, and many retrospective diagnoses have been proposed. The consensus is that Van Gogh had an episodic condition with periods of normal functioning.[195] Perry was the first to suggest bipolar disorder in 1947,[196] and this has been supported by the psychiatrists Hemphill and Blumer.[197][198] Biochemist Wilfred Arnold has countered that the symptoms are more consistent with acute intermittent porphyria, noting that the popular link between bipolar disorder and creativity might be spurious.[195] Temporal lobe epilepsy with bouts of depression has also been suggested.[198] Whatever the diagnosis, his condition was likely worsened by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia and alcohol.[198]
The exact sequence of events which led to Van Gogh's mutilation of his ear is not known. Gauguin stated, fifteen years later, that the night followed several instances of physically threatening behaviour.[138] Their relationship was complex, and Theo may have owed money to Gauguin, who was suspicious that the brothers were exploiting him financially.[139] It seems likely that Van Gogh had realised that Gauguin was planning to leave.[139] The following days saw heavy rain, leading to the two men being shut in the Yellow House.[140] Gauguin reported that Van Gogh followed when Gauguin left the house for a walk, and "rushed towards me, an open razor in his hand".[140] This account is uncorroborated;[141] Gauguin was almost certainly absent from the Yellow House that night, most likely in a hotel.[140]
His understanding of the possibilities of painting was evolving rapidly; from studying Hals he learned to portray the freshness of a visual impression, while the works of Paolo Veronese and Eugène Delacroix taught him that colour can express something by itself. This led to his enthusiasm for Peter Paul Rubens and inspired his sudden departure for Antwerp, Belgium, where the greatest number of Rubens’s works could be seen. The revelation of Rubens’s mode of direct notation and of his ability to express a mood by a combination of colours proved decisive in the development of van Gogh’s style. Simultaneously, van Gogh discovered Japanese prints and Impressionist painting. All these sources influenced him more than the academic principles taught at the Antwerp Academy, where he was enrolled. His refusal to follow the academy’s dictates led to disputes, and after three months he left precipitately in 1886 to join Theo in Paris. There, still concerned with improving his drawing, van Gogh met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and others who were to play historic roles in modern art. They opened his eyes to the latest developments in French painting. At the same time, Theo introduced him to Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat, and other artists of the Impressionist group.
Van Dyke's start in television was with WDSU-TV New Orleans Channel 6 (NBC), first as a single comedian and later as emcee of a comedy program.[18][19][20] Van Dyke's first network TV appearance was with Dennis James on James' Chance of a Lifetime in 1954. He later appeared in two episodes of The Phil Silvers Show during its 1957–58 season. He also appeared early in his career on ABC's The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom and NBC's The Polly Bergen Show. During this time a friend from the Army was working as an executive for CBS television and recommended Van Dyke to that network. Out of this came a seven-year contract with the network.[21] During an interview on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! program, Van Dyke said he was the anchorman for the CBS morning show during this period with Walter Cronkite as his newsman.[22]

His artistic career was extremely short, lasting only the 10 years from 1880 to 1890. During the first four years of this period, while acquiring technical proficiency, he confined himself almost entirely to drawings and watercolours. First, he went to study drawing at the Brussels Academy; in 1881 he moved to his father’s parsonage at Etten, Netherlands, and began to work from nature.

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]
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.