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.
Mauve took Van Gogh on as a student and introduced him to watercolour, which he worked on for the next month before returning home for Christmas. He quarrelled with his father, refusing to attend church, and left for The Hague.[note 5] Within a month Van Gogh and Mauve fell out, possibly over the viability of drawing from plaster casts. Van Gogh could afford to hire only people from the street as models, a practice of which Mauve seems to have disapproved. In June Van Gogh suffered a bout of gonorrhoea and spent three weeks in hospital. Soon after, he first painted in oils, bought with money borrowed from Theo. He liked the medium, and spread the paint liberally, scraping from the canvas and working back with the brush. He wrote that he was surprised at how good the results were.
We bought a bedroom set and was very excited to get it delivered. However, when it got delivered, we realized that the salesperson failed to tell us that we needed a bunky board rather than a box spring, and the bed was 5 feet tall with the platform! (Keeping in mind I bought all the pieces of furniture from the same company). The bed was as tall as me! I called the company while the delivery guys were still here, but the salesperson said she would call me back and never did. I finally got ahold of the manager the next day, who was going to charge me another $100 for the exchange and delivery. I later found out that the bunky board was simply a piece of plywood that you can easily buy for much cheaper, and that this situation happened to people all the time; especially to elderly people.
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".
In 1892 Émile Bernard organised a small solo show of Van Gogh's paintings in Paris, and Julien Tanguy exhibited his Van Gogh paintings with several consigned from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. In April 1894 the Durand-Rue Gallery in Paris agreed to take 10 paintings on consignment from Van Gogh's estate. In 1896, the Fauvist painter Henri Matisse, then an unknown art student, visited John Peter Russell on Belle Île off Brittany. Russell had been a close friend of Van Gogh; he introduced Matisse to the Dutchman's work, and gave him a Van Gogh drawing. Influenced by Van Gogh, Matisse abandoned his earth-coloured palette for bright colours.