Van Gogh's gaze is seldom directed at the viewer. The portraits vary in intensity and colour, and in those painted after December 1888 especially, the vivid colours highlight the haggard pallor of his skin. Some depict the artist with a beard, others without. He can be seen with bandages in portraits executed just after he mutilated his ear. In only a few does he depict himself as a painter. Those painted in Saint-Rémy show the head from the right, the side opposite his damaged ear, as he painted himself reflected in his mirror.
They contain a wide array of physiognomical representations. Van Gogh's mental and physical condition is usually apparent; he may appear unkempt, unshaven or with a neglected beard, with deeply sunken eyes, a weak jaw, or having lost teeth. Some show him with full lips, a long face or prominent skull, or sharpened, alert features. His hair may be the usual red, or at times ash coloured.
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.
In 1959, Van Dyke landed a small part in the Broadway comedy review Girls Against the Boys. The show only lasted two weeks, and he soon moved on to another production. Along with Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly, Van Dyke was cast in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, which made its Broadway debut in 1960. The musical proved to a big hit, and it brought Van Dyke his one and only Tony Award win in 1961, for his supporting role. Not long after, his career took off.
[about Mary Poppins (1964)] I thought Walt Disney hired me because I was such a great singer and dancer. As it turns out, he had heard me in an interview talking about what was happening to family entertainment. I was decrying the fact that it seemed like no holds were barred anymore in entertainment . . . That's why he called me in, because I said something he agreed with. And I got the part.
I remember in the book that Caractacus was married. There was no love interest, no love story. So I think bringing Truly Scrumptious in works very well because we had assumed he was a widower. And they couldn't have picked a better Truly Scrumptious than Sally [Sally Ann Howes]. They came up with Sally Ann and I heard her voice, and it was the richest contralto. She auditioned with "The Lovely Lonely Man" and I thought, "My God, this girl is great!" and then she was stunningly beautiful. She loved those kids and they loved her, which I think comes across on the screen. They just thought a great deal of her and she spent a lot of time with them, you know, between shots - telling stories and playing games during all those long waiting periods.
Many of the comedy films Van Dyke starred in throughout the 1960s were relatively unsuccessful at the box office, including What a Way to Go! with Shirley MacLaine, Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N., Fitzwilly, The Art of Love with James Garner and Elke Sommer, Some Kind of a Nut, Never a Dull Moment with Edward G. Robinson, and Divorce American Style with Debbie Reynolds and Jean Simmons. But he also starred as Caractacus Pott (with his native accent, at his own insistence, despite the English setting) in the successful musical version of Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), which co-starred Sally Ann Howes and featured the same songwriters (The Sherman Brothers) and choreographers (Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood) as Mary Poppins.
Van Gogh painted several landscapes with flowers, including roses, lilacs, irises, and sunflowers. Some reflect his interests in the language of colour, and also in Japanese ukiyo-e. There are two series of dying sunflowers. The first was painted in Paris in 1887 and shows flowers lying on the ground. The second set was completed a year later in Arles, and is of bouquets in a vase positioned in early morning light. Both are built from thickly layered paintwork, which, according to the London National Gallery, evoke the "texture of the seed-heads".
Van Gogh strove to be a painter of rural life and nature, and during his first summer in Arles he used his new palette to paint landscapes and traditional rural life. 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. 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. These were themes and motifs he returned to often to rework and develop. 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. In Arles, having gained confidence after painting spring blossoms and learning to capture bright sunlight, he was ready to paint The Sower.
Limited access to life outside the clinic resulted in a shortage of subject matter. Van Gogh instead worked on interpretations of other artist's paintings, such as Millet's The Sower and Noonday Rest, and variations on his own earlier work. Van Gogh was an admirer of the Realism of Jules Breton, Gustave Courbet and Millet, and he compared his copies to a musician's interpreting Beethoven.
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, 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."
He first gained recognition on radio and Broadway, then he became known for his role as Rob Petrie on the CBS television sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961 to 1966. He also gained significant popularity for roles in the musical films Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018). His other prominent film appearances include roles in The Comic (1969), Dick Tracy (1990), Curious George (2006), Night at the Museum (2006), and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014). Other prominent TV roles include the leads in The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971–74), Diagnosis: Murder (1993–2001), and Murder 101 (2006–08) which both co-starred his son Barry.
In 1969, Van Dyke appeared in the comedy-drama The Comic, written and directed by Carl Reiner. Van Dyke portrayed a self-destructive silent film era comedian who struggles with alcoholism, depression, and his own rampant ego. Reiner wrote the film especially for Van Dyke, who often spoke of his admiration for silent film era comedians such as Charlie Chaplin and his hero Stan Laurel. On Larry King Live, Van Dyke mentioned he turned down the lead role in The Omen which was played by Gregory Peck. He also mentioned his dream role would have been the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Twenty-one years later in 1990, Van Dyke, whose usual role had been the amiable hero, took a small but villainous turn as the crooked DA Fletcher in Warren Beatty's film Dick Tracy. Van Dyke returned to motion pictures in 2006 with Curious George as Mr. Bloomsberry and as villain Cecil Fredericks in the Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum. He reprised the role in a cameo for the sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), but it was cut from the film. It can be found in the special features on the DVD release. He also played the character again in the third film, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).