The newly opened exhibition at the Didrichsen Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland, has been extended and will give visitors the chance to see Tove Jansson's and her contemporaries' paintings until the 22nd of August.
Tove Jansson was the daughter of an illustrator and a sculptor. From an early age she started to develop the identity of an artist, initially supported by her family and later by colleagues. Her career lasted for more than seven decades.
“Twenty years after Jansson’s death in 2001, the Didrichsen Art Museum is pleased and honored to present the work of one of Finland’s most beloved artists. This is done from the perspective of what she loved the most, which was painting,” commented the Museum Director Maria Didrichsen.
“Tove Jansson was an interesting and incredibly versatile artist whose painting has not received as much attention as her other work. That’s why we wanted to focus on her art, which also offers a new perspective for many visitors. In addition, we wanted to include other artists from the same generation who influenced her work. This makes it easier to place Jansson’s art into the art phenomena of that time”, Didrichsen adds.
The exhibition highlights the starting points of Jansson’s creative work: on one hand, the artist’s home and the example set by her mother, and on the other hand, the influence that for example Jansson’s teacher Sam Vanni had on her maturation as an artist. In this way, the exhibition brings light to what the impact of family, colleagues and friends was like.
“Tove is finally gaining visibility not only for the Moomin stories but also for her painting”
“I think it’s great that Tove is finally gaining visibility not only for the Moomin stories but also for her painting,” Sophia Jansson said in the opening speech.
“The atmosphere at the Didrichsen Art Museum is perfect for Tove’s paintings”, Jansson continues.
“The museum is a cozy and at the same time professional exhibition space that serves as a beautiful milieu for Tove’s paintings together with works from her contemporaries.”
From representational to abstract: paradises and freedom
The exhibition concentrates on Jansson’s career as a visual artist beginning with early paintings from the 1930s and 1940s, a time she was still able to devote herself exclusively to painting.
“My favorites are the main work of the exhibition, Girl smoking, as well as the abstract paintings. Girl Smoking exudes self-confidence and courage. In the abstract paintings, I am fascinated by the use of colors and the reference to representativeness” says Maria Didrichsen.
The second focus of the exhibition is in the 1950s and 1960s when Jansson renewed her expression and followed the trend towards more abstract art.
“I like especially Tove’s works from the 1960s, when she experimented with abstract art. The paintings were large in size and the colors bright, far from the dark tones of the paintings depicting the 1930s and 1950s”, Sophia Jansson describes.
More important than the institutions were the artist colleagues and friends
One of the messages of the exhibition is that every artist, even the most renowned ones, has been supported and influenced by many different people.
Tove Jansson completed her studies in art and design in Stockholm and studied at Ateneum’s art school, which guaranteed her the necessary technical skills. At the time her mother was her primary source of influence, but she was also influenced by a slightly older artist, Sam Vanni. There are three of his works on display in the exhibition: a portrait of 26-year-old Tove Jansson (1940), a self-portrait and one abstract work from 1953.
The exhibition shows works from other colleagues, friends and artists of the same generation: eg. Sam Vanni, Eva Cederström, Tapio Tapiovaara, Ina Colliander, Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Anitra Lucander and Tuulikki Pietilä.
Jansson wanted to be faithful to her own insights
Art historian Erik Kruskopf speculates in the Finnish book “Toven matkassa. Muistoja Tove Janssonista” that the reason Jansson did not reach a significant position in the field of visual arts despite the high quality of many of her works of art is that “changes in her took place with a delay.”
Kruskopf explains that it was the novelty value of ideas that played a major role in the art of that time, and continues: “But Tove Jansson did not seek novelty value. Her ambition as a painter was always that she wanted to be faithful to what she felt was within herself.”
“Tove Jansson’s career as an artist is also a reminder of how far you can go when you have passion and unyieldingness,” Maria Didrichsen adds.
Exhibition book and a special selection of products in the shop-in-shop
The museum shop includes wonderful products related to Tove Jansson and her life’s work, like books, cards and notebooks – and the insightful and beautiful exhibition book. The exhibition book is also available in the museum’s webstore, but unfortunately only in Finnish and Swedish.
See the opening speech of the exhibition on YouTube
The exhibition opened in special circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 13. No normal opening ceremonies were therefore held, but a trilingual opening speech was recorded online to the delight of visitors and those interested in the exhibition. In the video above, Sophia Jansson and Maria Didrichsen open the exhibition.
Didrichsen Art Museum – from the love of family to art
The Didrichsen collection is born out of the love for art. The majority of the works have been acquired by the museum founders Gunnar and Marie-Louise Didrichsen for their personal enjoyment. They started collecting art in the 1940s and the choices reflect their artistic tastes.
The inspiration for Villa Didrichsen was Villa Mairea, located in Noormarkku and designed for Harry and Maire Gullichsen by Alvar Aalto. The Didrichsens asked Alvar Aalto to design a similar house for them. Because of lack of time, Aalto declined the request, recommending Viljo Revell, who “is the only one who can do the same as me”. The art museum wing of Villa Didrichsen, which serves as a museum building, was opened to the public in September 1965.
Listen to the museum’s fascinating, recently released podcast to learn more about the museum’s history.
The exhibition “Tove Jansson – to paint is to be” was opened at the Didrichsen Art Museum in Kuusisaari, Helsinki on March 13 taking into account the corona security measurements, and will stay open until 22 August 2021. You can visit the exhibition without prior reservation or by reserving a place in advance.
The Didrichsen Art Museum will open a new exhibition on March 13th. The exhibition “To paint is to be” focuses on Tove Jansson’s career in painting.