Theo died in January 1891, removing Vincent's most vocal and well-connected champion.[267] Theo's widow Johanna van Gogh-Bonger was a Dutchwoman in her twenties who had not known either her husband or her brother-in law very long and who suddenly had to take care of several hundreds of paintings, letters and drawings, as well as her infant son, Vincent Willem van Gogh.[262][note 14] Gauguin was not inclined to offer assistance in promoting Van Gogh's reputation, and Johanna's brother Andries Bonger also seemed lukewarm about his work.[262] Aurier, one of Van Gogh's earliest supporters among the critics, died of typhoid fever in 1892 at the age of twenty-seven.[269]


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.
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]

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,[164] and he compared his copies to a musician's interpreting Beethoven.[165]


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.
Van Gogh returned home a fortnight later and resumed painting, producing a mirror-image Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe, several still lifes, and La Berceuse (Woman Rocking a Cradle; Augustine-Alix Pellicot Roulin, 1851–1930). Several weeks later, he again showed symptoms of mental disturbance severe enough to cause him to be sent back to the hospital. At the end of April 1889, fearful of losing his renewed capacity for work, which he regarded as a guarantee of his sanity, he asked to be temporarily shut up in the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in order to be under medical supervision.
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.[129] 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.[130] He completed two chair paintings: Van Gogh's Chair and Gauguin's Chair.[131]
During this period Van Gogh mastered the use of light by subjugating shadows and painting the trees as if they are the source of light – almost in a sacred manner.[252] Early the following year he painted another smaller group of orchards, including View of Arles, Flowering Orchards.[254] Van Gogh was enthralled by the landscape and vegetation of the south of France, and often visited the farm gardens near Arles. In the vivid light of the Mediterranean climate his palette significantly brightened.[255]
After the altercation with Gauguin, Van Gogh returned to his room, where he was assaulted by voices and severed his left ear with a razor (either wholly or in part; accounts differ),[note 9] causing severe bleeding.[142] He bandaged the wound, wrapped the ear in paper, and delivered the package to a woman at a brothel Van Gogh and Gauguin both frequented.[142] Van Gogh was found unconscious the next morning by a policeman and taken to hospital,[145][146] where Félix Rey, a young doctor still in training, treated him. The ear was delivered to the hospital, but Rey did not attempt to reattach it as too much time had passed.[140]
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]
I asked Fred Astaire once when he was about my age if he still danced and he said 'Yes, but it hurts now.' That's exactly it. I can still dance too but it hurts now! I've always kept moving. I was at the gym at six this morning. Of course marrying a beautiful young woman has been a big help. There are so many years between us and we don't feel it. I'm emotionally immature and she's very wise for her age so we kind of meet in the middle.
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.
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