10 June 2017

Tove Jansson – Art, Love & Moomins

Openness and broad-mindedness are what characterize Tove Jansson’s life and work. We know her as the creator of one of the most beloved children’s universes in the Nordic countries: The Moomins. For decades, she has been an indispensable element in many Nordic homes with her richly imaginative stories and captivating illustrations. However, Tove Jansson’s work goes far beyond the Moomins – today she is regarded as one of the Finland’s central modernist artists. The exhibition at GL STRAND presents a multi-faceted portrait of Jansson’s highly productive life through her diverse works.

Tove Jansson – Art, Love & Moomins

For the first time in Denmark, GL STRAND presents a major exhibition of the works of this distinctive Finnish modernist; the painter, writer and graphic artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001).

Jansson grew up in an artistic, bohemian home where her mother was an illustrator and her father a sculptor. As a consequence, art was very much a part of Jansson’s life right from her earliest days. She had a strong wish to follow in her parents’ footsteps, and her life and work would prove to be very wide-ranging, even though the young Tove Jansson mainly wished to be a painter. She began her art studies at the age of sixteen at the Stockholm College of Applied Art, then continued her education a few years later in Helsinki and subsequently at art schools in Paris.

The exhibition at GL STRAND presents a selection of her multifarious works, including the early surrealist paintings from the 1930s, the modernist and experimental works from the 1940s and 50s, and lyrical works from the 1960s and 1970s. It will also show her satirical anti-war illustrations and illustrations for comics and children’s books, as well as the large murals, and in particular her extensive work with the Moomins, in drawings, figures and photographs.

The exhibition provides an overall presentation of her wide-ranging work, in which tolerance, curiosity and joie de vivre are the unifying characteristics, while the dark and contradictory also has its place. Her longing for freedom and her continuously positive outlook also brought Jansson into conflict with the norms of society, the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of which she exposed with her sharp pen, in both words and images.

She drew the first Moomin-like figures during the Second World War, and in the shadow of that conflict, their universe is characterized by despondency and unrest. The Moomins became a separate area of her work in the course of the 1940s and 1950s, when their distribution and popularity continued to grow. In the 1950s she – and later her brother Lars – produced a regular comic strip for The Evening News.

The many works of the exhibition will be staged in a way that highlights Jansson’s close relationship with Finland’s natural environment. Nature was a particular focal point for Jansson’s life and work, with long stays on the small rocky island of Klovharu providing the backdrop for her adult life. The sea, rocks, trees and sun are interpreted in a stylized, partly abstract form in her paintings.

An in-depth view of Tove Jansson in the catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue that elucidates the many different aspects of Tove Jansson’s oeuvre. The authors are Dr. Tuula Karjalainen, curator of the Jubilee exhibition at Ateneum, Boel Westin, professor of the History of Literature, Paul Gravett, British journalist and cartoon expert, and Sir Frank Cottrell-Boyce, English screenwriter and author of children’s books. The catalogue provides in-depth knowledge about Jansson and functions as an educational tool in the exhibition. It offers a rich visual presentation of many of the works included in the exhibition.

Tove Jansson exhibition catalogue

Buy the catalogue in Swedish here

Buy the catalogue in English here


The exhibition has been produced in collaboration with Ateneum Art Museum. It has been shown at Millesgården in Stockholm and Gothenburg Museum of Art and will be presented at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London later this year.


GL STRAND, Denmark

Tove Jansson – Art, Love & Moomins

10 JUNE – 3 SEPTEMBER 2017




Photos: Bulls Licensing

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