Tove Jansson

Helsinki 9.8.1914 – Helsinki 27.6.2001

Family

Tove Jansson is without a doubt one of the best Finnish artists of all time and also the most widely read Finnish author abroad. Her lifework is of immeasurable value because of the success she made as a writer, artist and cartoonist. She was a multi-talented artist who is mostly remembered as the creator of the Moomins. The Moomin books have been translated into over fifty languages.

In addition to the Moomin books and comics, Tove Jansson also received recognition for her short stories and novels. Her worldwide fame is also recognisable because she succeeded to write for both children and adults at the same time.

tovejansson.com
Family

Family

Tove's father was Finnish-Swedish Viktor Jansson (born in 1886) and her mother was Swedish Signe Hammarsten-Jansson (born in 1882). Viktor and Signe met in Paris while studying and they got 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 his daughter Tove.

Tove's mother Signe worked as an illustrator and artist. Among other projects she designed banknotes for the Bank of Finland. She also designed all the Finnish postage stamps between 1929-1962.

Tove had two little brothers, Per Olov Jansson (b. 1920) and Lars Jansson (b. 1926) and like other members in the family both of them became artists. Per Olov was a photographer and Lars made his debut as a writer and later became a Moomin cartoonist. The siblings had many shared projects during their careers as well, the best known works being the Moomin comics Tove and Lars drew and the documentations Per Olov made of Tove.

Tove’s family and the home they lived in played a key role in her career. Family members trusted and supported each other in every way. Having the childhood home full of art and artists who were facing the compromises of daily life had a massive impact on Tove’s philosophy as an artist.

Family

Islands

As a child Tove spent summers with her relatives in the Stockholm archipelago. It was from the summer house in Blidö and the area surrounding it that Tove drew her inspiration for Moominvalley and the Moominhouse with its terrace and slender tower. Part of the family tradition was also to spend summers in Pellinki, out in the archipelago of the Gulf of Finland. All these summer memories played a part in shaping Tove’s love for islands, big or small.

In the beginning of 1960 Tove and her partner Tuulikki Pietilä found a perfect island Klovharu in the Pellinki archipelago. They built a small summer house where they spent over 30 summers together. For Tove islands were the symbols of freedom.

Islands

Studying

In the Spring of 1930 Tove Jansson finished her studies in Brobergska samskolan, which was one of the biggest Swedish speaking schools in Helsinki, Finland. In the autumn of 1930 Tove started her studies at the Stockholm College of Applied Art where she took courses in ceramic art, painting and drawing, among other subjects. 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 went on to study in Paris at the L’École d’Adrien Holy and L´École des Beaux-Arts.

Studying

Travelling

Besides living in Finland and Sweden Tove also lived abroad, for example in Paris, France. During her trips around the world she was influenced in her artistic work by various art styles.

In the 1970's Tove and her partner Tuulikki Pietilä travelled eight months around the world combining both work and leisure. The main contents of the trip was overseeing the worldwide revolution of the Moomins, writing new books and relaxing, trying to forget everything work-related.

Travelling was one of the vital things in Tove's life. During her trips she felt inspired and besides picking up on countless artistic influences she also got the opportunity to work in peace and harmony.

Travelling

Studio

In 1944 Tove moved to Ullanlinna, Helsinki to a turret studio. At first the apartment was in an horrible shape but Tove fell in love with it's potential and during the years made it her own. She lived there for many decades and finished many of her best known paintings there. The first Moomin story was also written in this studio home.

Studio

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 a successful author because of her literary works she considered writing a hobby alongside making visual art. Numerous prizes and various credits meant very little to Tove when compared to the appreciation and approval of her family.

Career as a writer

Career as a visual artist

As a visual artist Jansson was a multi-talent being able to use many different techniques and to follow different style trends. She created a variety of paintings, public works as well as graphics. Her starting point was always to present something real and concrete like landscapes, portraits and combinations.

In the beginning of 1940 Tove worked for the satirical magazine Garm as the head designer. During her career she drew about a hundred cover photos and hundreds of other drawings for Garm. In the magazine both bohemian artistic life and the everyday life during the war were presented by Jansson, however what she enjoyed most was drawing political cartoons.

Public works and other decorative paintings was an important part of Tove Jansson's art. Fresco at the Helsinki City Hall, murals at Aurora Children's Hospital in Helsinki and numerous murals in schools and kindergartens as well as the altarpiece at Teuva church are part of her most significant pieces of public art.

During her career Tove Jansson hosted several solo exhibitions and when comparing these exhibitions the development in her artistic style is evidently visible. Detailed combinations are slightly turned simplistic and even sort of abstract. The importance of travelling and the influence it had on Tove Jansson's artistic production can not be overemphasised. But even if she'd followed the international trends she wouldn't have wanted to copy them, since she always wanted to respect the tradition and the basic artistic values.

Career as a visual artist