This article analyses how a late twentieth-century/early twenty-first-century development in bandes dessinées, which combines historical novels with biographies, expresses paradoxical attitudes towards mythologies surrounding Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh. Firstly, I demonstrate that the paradox stems from a simultaneous desire for and suspicion of master narratives, identified as intrinsic to postmodernism by Linda Hutcheon. Then I establish how eight graphic novels perpetuate pre-existing mythological master narratives about Gauguin and Van Gogh. Nevertheless, those mythologies simultaneously arouse scepticism: myths do not express exemplary universal truths; myths are artificial and fictionalised constructs whose status in reality is dubious. The albums convey tension between desire and suspicion regarding myths by a variety of devices. These include sequenced panels, circular plots, unreliable witnesses, fictional insertions, parodies and mock realism.
Matthew Screech is a senior lecturer in French at the Manchester Metropolitan University. He is a founding member of the International Bande Dessinée Society and he sits on the editorial board of European Comic Art. Matthew has written and published extensively about BDs. He has also been invited been invited to speak about his research in the Belgium, France and the USA as well as in the UK. Matthew has co-organised several international conferences, including the IBDS and Graphic Novels conference at MMU in 2019. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org