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Moomins creator Tove Jansson at Dulwich

As a child, I fell in love with the work of Tove Jansson. More specifically, I fell in love with the Moomins and the curious characters who inhabited their world.

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
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

The stories were funny, whimsical but also magical and odd. Today, any child wanting to know who ‘Tove Jansson’ was would just pick up their phone and Google it: in the 70s, her curious name just added to the mystery of the books to me.

Tove Jansson, Comic strip Moomin on the Riviera, 1955, British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen
Tove Jansson, Comic strip Moomin on the Riviera, 1955, British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

We’ve come to know a little more about Jansson’s life thanks to Eleanor Yule’s documentary which, until recently, was available on the BBC iPlayer. The film revealed Jansson’s wider work as well as her desire to be recognised as a fine artist.

“It was hugely important to Tove that she be recognised as a talented fine artist in addition to being the creator of the Moomins,” her niece Sophia Jansson has said. “Balancing her painting and her other projects alongside the demands that the Moomins made of her was something she struggled with all her life. I’m delighted that Dulwich Picture Gallery is putting on this exhibition which will make Tove’s wider artistic output accessible to a UK audience, who may not yet be familiar with her work outside of Moominvalley.”

For images above: Tove Jansson, Smoking Girl (Self-Portrait), 1940, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis. ©Moomin Characters; Tove Jansson, Lynx Boa (Self-Portrait), 1974, Oil, 73 x 60.5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis; Tove Jansson, Self-Portrait, 1975, Oil, 65 x 47 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s show, which is set to open in October 2017 and run until January 2018, will highlight the breadth of her work, from cartoons and illustration, to portraits, landscapes and, of course, the Moomins themselves. Among 150 works, it will include a series of Moomin drawings only this year discovered at the British Cartoon Archive.

I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but a large part of the enduring appeal of those books is in their attitude toward accepting and welcoming strangers, not matter who (or what) they are.

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, 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

“In Europe and the world today, Tove’s art and stories are more relevant than ever. Her entire oeuvre and way of thinking are characterised by the acceptance of differences. Although the family circle – both the artist’s own and the fictional Moomin family – is central, the door is always open for those seeking shelter,” says Sointu Fritze, curator of the exhibition. “Tove Jansson’s works convey a profound understanding of human diversity. This show will reveal fascinating new insights into a colourful life and the work that came out of it.”

Tove Jansson (1914-2001) will be at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London SE21, from October 2017 to January 2018. Dates to be confirmed. Main image: detail from Tove Jansson Swimming ©Per Olov Jansson, full image shown above

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, Mysterious Landscape, c. 1930, Oil on plywood, 61 x 152.5 cm, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

For images above: Tampere Art Museum Moominvalley. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis. ©Moomin Characters; Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Tove Jansson, Family, 1942, Oil, 89 x 116 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Tove Jansson, Family, 1942, Oil, 89 x 116 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Tove Jansson, Abstract Sea, 1963, Oil, 73 x 100cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Tove Jansson, Abstract Sea, 1963, Oil, 73 x 100cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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