Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Moomins creator Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001), London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts is to host an exhibition, starting in July, presenting original unseen photographs and material relating to her life and work, illustrated books and early first editions.
Examples of her Moomin comic strips published by the London Evening News in the 1950s and syndicated across the globe that helped make the Moomins a worldwide success will also be on show.
Tove Jansson, an accomplished Finnish author and artist, had a life every bit as fascinating as her famous creations, The Moomins. Tove Jansson: Tales From the Archipelago draws an intimate portrait of the artist’s life on her private island in the archipelago of Finland, where she regularly spent the summer months with her female companion Tuulikki Pietilä and at her artist studio in Helsinki.
Shot over a period of 60 years by her dear friend, renowned Finnish photographer C-G Hagström and her brother, photographer, Per Olov Jansson, rare family photographs reveal a story of an extraordinary life.
Jansson is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children. The first such book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, appeared in 1945, though it was the next two books, Comet in Moominland and Finn Family Moomintroll, published in 1946 and 1948 respectively, that brought her fame.
Moomin comic strips first published in the London Evening News in 1954 also helped bring the Moomins to international attention.
The strip, which was drawn by Tove’s brother Lars from 1960 onwards, was syndicated in newspapers around the world, with millions of readers in 40 countries. (A Moomins strip was also published in the 1940s in Finish but proved short lived).
Jansson’s Moomins are a tight-knit family — hippo-shaped creatures with easygoing and adventurous outlooks. Jansson’s art on the comic strips is pared down and precise, but composes beautiful portraits of ambling creatures in fields of flowers or rock-strewn beaches that recall their creator’s Nordic roots.
The comic strip reached out to adults with its gentle and droll sense of humour. Whimsical but with biting undertones, Jansson’s observations of everyday life in her early strips, including guests who overstay their welcome, modern art, movie stars, and high society, easily caught the attention of an international audience and still resonate today.
To date, Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly have released five collections of the strip.
Tove Jansson was born on 9th August 1914 in the Katjanokka district of Helsinki and grew up in an artist family. Her father Viktor Jansson was a sculptor and her mother Signe Hammarsten-Jansson was a graphic designer and illustrator. Jansson studied art in Stockholm and Helsinki, and she also sought inspiration from Paris and Italy.
In the late summer of 1944, Jansson rented an attic studio in the centre of the Helsinki at Ullanlinnankatu 1. The studio became her cherished home where she lived and worked in the autumn and winter. Summers were spent on the tiny island of Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland. Jansson loved the sea and the archipelago, which can be seen in her multifaceted art.
Back in her studio in the heart of Helsinki, she created her most renowned paintings and texts, and it was here that Jansson finished her first book featuring Moomintroll. The studio would serve as her cherished home and a haven for almost 60 years.
The ICA exhibition will be curated by Susanna Pettersson, Director, and Animaya Grant, Head of Events at the Finnish Institute in London, with the ICA and is supported by the Finnish Institute in London.
• Tove Jansson: Tales from the Nordic Archipelago: 15th July – 24th August 2014, Fox Reading Room, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH.
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• Official Moomins Web Site: www.moomin.com
• There’s also an official Moomin Shop in London’s Covent Garden Market Building, open from 10am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11.00am to 5.00pm on Sundays.
The shop is a collaboration between Sophia Jansson, niece of Tove Jansson and Patrick Haddad, owner of the Edinburgh furniture shop, DesignShop UK. Opened in 2011, The Londonist reported Haddad decided to open it, the first outside the Moomin’s native Finland, following a successful exhibition in his Scottish store during the Edinburgh Festival called “And the World went Mad for Moomins.”
All artwork featured © Tove Jansson