One of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century, Tove Jansson is known internationally as creator of the Moomin characters and books, a phenomenon which continues to stretch across generations. Her wider outputs of graphic illustration and painting, however, are relatively unseen outside her home country of Finland.
150 works, including a large body of self-portraits and paintings never seen before in the UK will reintroduce Jansson as an artist of exceptional breadth and talent, and provide an insightful overview of the key stages of her prolific career. Ultimately, Jansson’s most enduring desire was to be an artist and this exhibition will reveal the unwavering passion that kept her working and exhibiting as an accomplished fine artist alongside her career in graphic illustration.
Who was Tove Jansson?
Tove Marika Jansson was born in 1914 in Helsinki to the graphic artist, Signe Hammarsten and the sculptor Viktor Jansson. She grew up with her two brothers Per Olov (b. 1920) and Lars (b. 1926) in an ambitious artistic family, living and breathing art. The open-minded, bohemian atmosphere encouraged the talented young Jansson to search for her own artistic expression, which produced striking results with intuitive certainty from an early age.
In the midst of the mass bombings of Helsinki in 1944, Jansson managed to get an attic studio in the centre of the Helsinki. The studio became her cherished home, a source of power and a haven, where she created her most renowned paintings and texts. It was there that Jansson finished her first story featuring Moomintroll.
The Moomins and the Great Flood (1945) was the first volume in the series that was to become the most prominent and best-known part of Jansson’s career as an artist. As a writer, Jansson did not want the stunning success of Moomins to limit her freedom either. After Moominvalley in November (1970), it was time for something new.
In 1968, she had published the childhood description Sculptor’s Daughter for adult readers, but it was the acclaimed collection The Listener (1971) that showcased her as a short story writer for the first time.
Jansson’s studio in Helsinki was dedicated for work, but since her childhood, she had fallen in love with the sea and archipelago. She spent many summers on the tiny island of Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland. There and in her frequent travels abroad, she was accompanied by her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä (1917 - 2009), graphic artist and professor.
Official Paint Partner
Image credits: Top images: Tove Jansson, Lynx Boa (Self-Portrait), 1974, Oil, 73 x 60.5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis. Tove Jansson, Mysterious Landscape, c. 1930, Oil on plywood, 61 x 152.5 cm, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen. Tove Jansson, Illustration for the book Moominland Midwinter, c. 1956, scrape drawing on cardboard, 13 x 18,5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.
Smaller carousel: Tove Jansson, Smoking Girl (Self-Portrait), 1940, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis. ©Moomin Characters. Tove Jansson, Sleeping in the Roots, 1930s, gouache and Indian ink on paper, 22.1 x 26.7 cm, Tampere Art Museum, Moominvalley. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis. Tove Jansson, Family, 1942, Oil, 89 x 116 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.