The Power of Comics: A Review of VINCENT by Barbara Stok


VINCENT is an inviting look at Vincent Van Gogh, the epitome of the tortured artist. In this new graphic novel by Dutch illustrator Barbara Stok, we have a new look at this icon. Published by SelfMadeHero, as part of their exciting new Art Masters series, we find in these 144 pages another way to appreciate Van Gogh’s life and art and even get some clarity regarding the myth surrounding Van Gogh. The most infamous moment during his life is, of course, the cutting off of part of his ear. Popular belief has it as his strange way of proving his love for a local woman. However, we find here that is not the case.


We gain a greater understanding of Van Gogh’s mental illness. When he finds the right balance of solitude and beauty in the south of France, he dreams of an artists’ studio in Arles. It is when his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin refuses to reside permanently at the Yellow House, that Van Gogh cuts off part of his ear.

What is so remarkable about this book is how the power of comics can shed light on another medium, painting. Comics and painting share many things in common. They are more related to each other than you might think. However, comics has the intrinsic ability to pare down and provide communication in a more direct manner. So can painting. But it’s comics that we turn to for its unique narrative.

It makes complete sense for a figure so firmly established in the popular mind to have his life expressed in the popular medium of comics. And, of course, comics will open doors for readers about lesser known and obscure figures too! That’s when comics can really shine.

Barbara Stok has certainly done her research. She read all of Van Gogh’s letters and made visits to the south of France. She focused on those last two years of his life, when mental instability overcame him coupled with a burst of creative output.

This book would make a wonderful introduction to readers on many levels. Visit the publishers, SelfMadeHero, right here.

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Filed under British Comics, Comics, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Self Made Hero

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