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Drawing close to nature Piirustus l채hell채 luontoa Elina Bonelius / Jessica Bartram

Drawing Close to Nature / Piirustus lähellä luontoa The Magical Illustrations of Tove Jansson June 5, 2014 - November 20, 2014 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum 2 East 91st Street, New York, New York 10128 A traveling exhibition curated by Elina Bonelius, Head Curator at Moomin Valley Museum, Finland Spot illustrations throughout the book have been commissioned by Cooper-Hewitt to honour the centenary of Tove Jansson’s birth.

Drawing close to nature Piirustus l채hell채 luontoa The Magical Illustrations of Tove Jansson

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Tove Jansson: Drawing Close to Nature Early Work The Moomins Appear Illustrations Elsewhere

by J. Bartram

“All I want to do is live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream.�

Tove Jansson

Drawing close to nature To enter the world of Tove Jansson is to wander through worlds uncommon, surrounded on all sides by folkloric creatures and intricate visual paeans to nature. Her illustrations, whether created for her own writing or that of others, resonate with her singular style that is at once simple and filled with small details that absorb the eye in new ways at every glance with charming characters and whimsical scenery. Born to a pair of artists in 1914, Tove grew up immersed in an intensely creative environment and learned to draw before she was able to walk. Her father Viktor Jansson was a well-known sculptor, her mother Signe Hammarsten-Jansson a

graphic designer and illustrator, and both were the very definition of free spirits, concerned with living life to the fullest and ensuring their children grew up surrounded by love and support for their creative endeavours. All three Jansson children wound up working within the arts, with Per Olov (born 1920) becoming a photographer and Lars (born 1926) a writer and Moomin cartoonist. Though both of her parents shaped her into the artist she became, Tove attributed her illustration style to her mother, once stating she had always tried to draw like she did. When Tove was just four years old, her father wrote from the front lines of the Finnish Civil War, “maybe our Tove will


grow up to be a great artist. A really great artist,” and as she grew up, his intuition proved correct.


At the age of 14 Tove wrote and illustrated her first picture book, Sara och Pelle och näckens bläckfiskar (Sara and Pelle and the Water Sprite’s Octopuses), which was finally published in 1933. Throughout the 1930s she attended various art schools, starting at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm from 1930-33, then moving on to the Graphic School of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts from 1933-1937, and the L’École d’Adrien Holy and L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1938. Her years at the Graphic School were fraught with difficulty, as Tove found the views of the school’s director William Lönnberg contrary to her own ideals. Restrictive, gender-based rules and expectations caused the majority of the

female students to drop out, leaving Tove and fellow classmate Eva Cedarström alongside six male students. A letter written after the school’s December exhibition reveals Tove’s frustration with the gender biases of the school and her teachers. She writes, My pictures were hung very low down, and I know it wasn’t a reflection of my artistic abilities. I know that I have the skills, even though my talent is still in my heart rather than in my mind. In 1936, Tove and her fellow students rebelled against the school, forming their own artist’s collective. During this time Tove also created illustrations for Garm, an anti-fascist Finnish-Swedish satirical magazine for which her mother also illustrated, and wrote and illustrated short stories and

articles which were published in various magazines, periodicals and daily papers. She continued to work on more traditional paintings alongside her illustration work, and her first solo exhibition was held in Helsinki in 1943. In 1945 Tove published her first Moomin story, Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (The Moomins and the Great Flood), creating the characters for whom she is best known (see page 19 for more on the Moomins).


In the early 1950s, Tove met Tuulikki Pietilä, a graphic artist who became her life partner. Together they shared a small island named Klovharu situated off the coast of Porvoo in the Pellinki archipelago in the Gulf of Finland for almost 30 years and traveled the world together starting in October of 1971.

Tove, age 7


Tuulikki (left), Tove (centre) and her mother (right) on the island of Klovharu

Though she had been writing prose throughout her life, this trip saw an increase in her writing and she subsequently published a number of short story collections and novellas, including The Listener (1971), The Summer Book (1972), and the novel Sun City (1974). During the 70s she also wrote numerous television and radio scripts, along with a libretto for the Moomin Opera in 1974. Tove’s last collection of short stories, Meddelande, was published in 1999, and she died two years later on June 27, 2001. Her cultural legacy extends beyond the borders of Finland, especially in the case of her Moomin characters, whose global popularity endures to this day. Her books have been translated into over 30 languages and are the third most translated works of Finnish literature after the Kalevala and books by Mika Waltari. The city of Tampere in southern Finland

contains a Moomin Museum, and the Moomin World theme park can be found in Naantali in south-western Finland. In 1966 she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for her contributions to children’s literature, and new collections of her Moomin comics continue to be published by Canadian publishing company Drawn and Quarterly. Though this exhibition covers only the illustrative portion of Tove’s art, her total output is extensive and encompasses nearly every facet of visual and written art. Though her prose, traditional portrait and landscape painting, murals, comic strips, children’s books, political cartoons, and more, Tove has created an entire universe of art at once wide-ranging and entirely recognizable as a product of Tove’s incredible mind.


“It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.”

by J. Bromley

“Maybe my passion is nothing special, but at least it’s mine.”

A Life on Paper El채m채 Paperille

Early Work


Early Childhood Drawing

Publishing House Tove, Book 44



Left: a page from a copy of one of the products of the Publishing House Tove, which existed from 1921-25 and saw 14 hand lettered, drawn and bound volumes containing tales of angels, death, hell and paradise.

Prickina’s and Fabian’s Adventure

Cover of Garm, Issue 8



Comic strips created by a 15 year old Tove were published in both Lunkentus, a children’s magazine, and Garm, a satirical publication that continued to publish Tove’s political cartoons

and illustrations during World War Two. She never shied away from caricatures of dictators, as seen in the right-hand image.


En bok om segling / Det 채r underligt att en lever!



Tvesk채ggs krumelurer 1943

Lill-Olle och harpalten 1943


“Whatever you do, it has to be done because you want to do it, because you are forced to express yourself in exactly that way.�

The Moomins Appear! Though the earliest incarnations of the Moomins start to appear in Tove’s art in the 1930s, the first Moomin book, Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (The Moomins and the Great Flood), was not published until 1945. After its publication, though, the Moomin phenomenon began to snowball and she produced a great flood of books set in Moomin Valley. The world of Moomin Valley contains a colourful cast of characters, many of whom were inspired by people in Tove’s life. The Moomins - Moomintroll, Moominmamma, and Moominpappa and many of the characters that surround them relate strongly to Tove’s own family,

portrayed as bohemian, living close to nature and apart from the normality of life. The Moomins are caring, polite, tolerant and righteous creatures and their Valley an idyllic place where one does what one can and gets what one needs, though this quiet environment is often threatened by impending disaster as in The Moomins and the Great Flood or Comet in Moominland (1949). By the late 1950s, Tove felt the Moomins were running out of control, writing, “I’ve poured out my feelings into Moomintroll, but he’s changing. I no longer feel safe in my secret cave - it’s trapping me inside.” Tove felt as if her professional identity as


Moomin Self Portrait Drawn by Tove in 1957, just over ten years after the first Moomin book was published.

an artist had been sidelined by her new identity as the, “Mother of the Moomins.” From the 1950s on her relationship with her most popular creations was a conflicted one, as they had turned her into a superstar, but also forced her to take time away from her other art to answer fan mail (a job she took seriously, personally replying to letters for many years). In 1970, Tove left Moominvalley after the publication of Moomin Valley in November (1970), which depicts the Valley bereft of the Moomins. This gloomy departure from the land of the Moomins was prompted in part by the death of Tove’s mother, which left her overcome with grief. Beyond Tove’s 25 years of Moomin-related writing and illustration, the phenomenon

has taken on a life of its own. There exists a Moomin opera (1974), stage productions of various Moomin stories, and almost 20 animated film and television adaptations produced between 1959 and today, with the most recent set to appear in 2014. Alongside these adaptations, a whole world of merchandise has been produced, starting soon after the first Moomin books were published. Whole shops dedicated only to Moomin products sell mugs, coasters, trays, plush toys, figurines, wallpapers, and more, all based on Tove’s original drawings. Despite her difficult relationship with her Moomins, they remain a crucial part of her artistic output, continuing to introduce people all over the world to her work.


“‘It’s strange,’ Moominmamma thought. ‘Strange that people can be sad, and even angry because life is too easy. But that’s the way it is, I suppose. The only thing to do is to start life afresh.’”

by J.B. Bartram

The Moomins and the Great Flood 1945


Comet in Moominland 1946


Moomin Falls in Love


Moomin and the Martians


Moomin and the Sea


Moominvalley Turns Jungle



“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Illustrations Elsewhere


Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll



Hunting of the Snark Lewis Carroll



The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien 1962




by J.B. Bartram

“Some people just shouldn’t be disturbed in their inclinations, whether large or small. A reminder can instantly turn enthusiasm into aversion and spoil everything.�

Profile for Jessica Bartram

Tove Jansson Catalogue  

Final project for Typography III, OCAD University - a catalogue for a show at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (NYC) featuring the w...

Tove Jansson Catalogue  

Final project for Typography III, OCAD University - a catalogue for a show at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (NYC) featuring the w...

Profile for jbbartram