Helsinki 9.8.1914 – Helsinki 27.6.2001
Tove Jansson is doubtless one of the best Finnish artists of all time and also the most widely read Finnish author abroad. Her lifework is an immeasurable valuable because of the success she made as a writer, artist and as a cartoonist. She was a multi-talented artist who is mostly remembered as a creator of the Moomins. The Moomin books have been translated into about fifty languages.
In addition to the Moomin books and comics she received recognition for her short stories and novels. Tove Jansson´s world fame is also recognisable because she succeeded to write for both children and adults at the same time.
Tove´s father was a Finnish-Swedish Viktor Jansson (born in 1886) and her mother was a Swedish Signe Hammarsten-Jansson (born in 1882). Viktor and Signe met in Paris while studying and they were married in 1913.
Viktor made his career as a sculptor and the favourite themes of his sculptures were female figures. One of his best known public sculptures is Convolvulus (1931) in Kaisaniemi park, Helsinki, Finland. The model for this sculpture was her daughter Tove.
Tove´s mother Signe worked as an illustrator and drawer. Among other projects she designed banknotes for the Bank of Finland. She also designed all the Finnish postage stamps during the 1929-1962.
Tove had two little brothers, Per Olov Jansson (b. 1920) and Lars Jansson (b. 1926) and like other members in the family they both became also artists. Per Olov was a photographer and Lars made his debut as a writer and later became a Moomin cartoonist. Siblings had also many shared projects during their careers and the best known works they did together are the Moomin comics Tove and Lars draw and the documentations Per Olov made of Tove.
The importance of the family and home for Tove´s career can not be overemphasised. Family members trusted and supported each other in every way. The childhood home full of art and artists and the compromises of daily life had a massive input for Tove´s philosophy as an artist.
As a child Tove spent summers at her relatives in the Stockholm archipelago. It was the area in Blidö and the summer house there where Tove got her inspiration for the Moominvalley and the Moominhouse with its terrace and a slender tower. Family tradition was also to spent summers at Pellinki in the archipelago of the Gulf of Finland and all these summer memories were the main reasons islands were so important for Tove.
In the beginning of 1960 Tove and her partner Tuulikki Pietilä found a perfect island Klovharu from the Pellinki archipelago. They built a small summer house and spent over 30 summers there together. For Tove the islands were the symbols of freedom.
In the Spring 1930 Tove Jansson finished her studies in Brobergska samskolan, in one of the biggest Swedish speaking schools in Helsinki, Finland. Already in the autumn 1930 Tove started her studies at the Stockholm College of Applied Art where she took subjects including for example ceramic art, painting and drawing. In 1933 Tove came back to Helsinki and continued her studies at the Helsinki Art Society´s drawing school at the Finnish National Gallery. In 1938 she also studied in Paris at the L’École d’Adrien Holy and L´École des Beaux-Arts.
Besides Finland and Sweden Tove lived also abroad for example in Paris, France. During her trips around the world she got influences for her artistic work.
In the 1970´s Tove and her partner Tuulikki Pietilä travelled eight months around the world combining both work and leisure. Overseeing the world conquest of Moomins and writing new books as well as relaxing and forgetting everything related to work were all carried out during the same trip.
Travelling was one of the vital things for Tove in her life and during her trips besides the influences she also got the possibility to work in peace and harmony.
In 1944 Tove moved in Ullanlinna, Helsinki in the turret studio. At first the apartment was in an a horrible state but because of the potential of it Tove loved it and during the years made it her own. She lived there many decades and made many of her best known paintings there. Also the first Moomin book was written in this studio home.
Career as a writer
Besides Moomin books Tove wrote 12 novels and short stories during her career. She has been praised as a commendable writer who used many different genres in her works like general prose, fairy tale, adventure story, fantasy, memoir and even dialogue-based type of narrative. The books for adults consist of human relationships but also the uncertainty and the relativity.
Although Tove is seen as an successful artist because of her literary production she thought that writing was just a hobby alongside the visual art. Numerous prizes and various credits were not so big things for Tove but the appreciation and approval of her family were.
Career as a visual artist
As a visual artist Jansson was a multi-talented being able to use many different techniques and to follow different style trends. She created a variety of paintings, public works as well as the graphics. Her starting point was always to present something real and concrete like landscapes, portraits and combinations.
In the beginning of the 1940 Tove worked for the satirical magazine Garm as it´s leading designer. During her career she draw about hundred cover photos and hundreds of other drawings for the Garm. Jansson presented both bohemian artistic life and the everyday life during the war, however she enjoyed the most the political cartoons.
Public works and other decorative paintings were important part of Tove Jansson´s artwork. Fresco at the Helsinki City Hall, murals at Aurora Children´s Hospital in Helsinki and number of murals in schools and kindergartens as well as the altarpiece at Teuva church are part of her most significants public works.
During her career Tove Jansson had also several solo exhibitions and by comparing these the development of her artistic style can be seen. Detailed combinations are slightly turned into the simplicity and sort of even abstract. The importance and influence of travelling for Tove Jansson´s artistic production can not be overemphasised. But even if she followed the international trends she did´t want to copy them because she always wanted to respect the tradition and the basic artistic values.