His earliest works, completed from 1881 through 1883, reflect a novice's attention to detail as well as hints of the nascent genius that would fully emerge in his later paintings. Although his sketches and watercolor drawings may, at first glance, seem two-dimensional and amateurish, they are fascinating in terms of their testament to the van Gogh's early studies in Realism.
Van Dyke left high school in 1944, his senior year, intending to join the United States Army Air Forces for pilot training during World War II. Denied enlistment several times for being underweight, he was eventually accepted for service as a radio announcer before transferring to the Special Services and entertaining troops in the continental United States. He received his high school diploma in 2004 at the age of 78.
"I have done another landscape with olive trees, and a new study of the 'starry sky'", was van Gogh's way of describing the painting in his letter the Theo. "Although I have not seen the new pictures by Gauguin and Bernard, I am fairly certain that these two studies are similarly conceived. When you see them some time [...] I shall be able to give you a better idea of the things Gauguin, Bernard and I often used to talk about and occupy ourselves with than I can do in words; it is not a return to Romanticism or to religious ideas, no. But via Delacroix one can express more of Nature and the country, by means of colour and an individual drawing style, than might appear." Van Gogh is making various points here. First, his synthesis of motifs was his first echo of work with Gauguin since his breakdown. The nighttime scene (this is something that had only just become important to van Gogh) offers the visual imagination its most distinctive, unique field of activity, since the lack of light requires the compensatory use of visual memory. Van Gogh used the memory method in his nocturnal scene; his discovery of the luminous power of darkness was a personal aesthetic discovery and needed no Gauguin as catalyst. Second, van Gogh was drawing upon his long-lost model Delacroix again, and the principle of contrast; once he paused to reflect on what he had achieved in recent weeks he found his attention drawn back to the colourist techniques which he himself had developed so far. Third, he was searching for the essence of the landscape, its very being - a way of registering its symbolic power, its vitality, its flux and constancy, all in one.
An end-of-the-world cataclysm invades Van Gogh's Starry Night, one of apocalypse filled with melting aerolites and comets adrift. One has the impression that the artist has expelled his inner conflict onto a canvas. Everything here is brewed in a huge cosmic fusion. The sole exception is the village in the foreground with its architectural elements. Several months after painting Starry Night, Van Gogh wrote: "Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France?... Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star."