Art, Love and Moomins
Gl Strand, Copenhagen
– 3 September 2017
In “Tove Jansson. Art, Love and Moomins”, Gl Strand is staging Denmark’s first exhibition about the life and works of this author and illustrator.
Tove Jansson’s world of children’s books included the Moomin family, who are known around the world, and her books are some of northern Europe’s best-loved stories. The Swedish-speaking Finn (1914-2001) was a master in combining images and words, and managed to reach and move not only children, but adults, too. The exhibition “Tove Jansson. Art, Love and Moomins” provides an overview of Jansson’s entire output that goes far beyond the world of the Moomins. Paintings, writings, letters and reliefs were created alongside her children’s books and indicate strong parallels with the author’s moving biography.
Jansson grew up in Helsinki as the eldest daughter of artistic parents. She characterises the family, although not free of external burdens and internal rifts, as being fiercely loyal to one another. From her earliest days, Jansson’s mother, a graphic artist, taught her to draw, and Tove often posed as a model for her father who was a sculptor. When she was 14 years old, she wrote her first book and published pictures in a few magazines, including Garm, an anti-Fascist satirical magazine.
As the Second World War reached Finland and her younger brother went to fight and a close Jewish friend fled to America, Jansson published her first book about the Moomins, a family of trolls. This family distinguished itself by its strong inner cohesion, but also its openness to other beings that represent an extended part of the family and who, in spite of sometimes very striking characteristics, were unquestioningly accepted by the Moomins.
In her first books, Jansson’s strong aversion to the war is evident as it threatened her personal environment and tore it apart. The Moomin family has to encounter external threats over and over again and give up the idyll in which they live. Life-changing personal experiences are also worked through in other works, including the short but intense love affair with the actress Vivica Bandler and the death of her mother. A special role is dedicated to Tuutikki, her partner Tuulikki Pietiläutikki. Jansson built a house with her on the tiny island of Klovharu in the North Sea that was the family’s summer residence for 30 years. Her relationship with nature is another constant feature of her work: the sea, vast spaces, the light and the seasons that provide a rhythm of life for her characters.
In this exhibition, GI Strand pays particular attention to the basic constant threads that run throughout all Jansson’s works: the tolerance that characterises the way her characters interact, and the curiosity and joie de vivre with which they face the world in spite of threats from the outside world.