Tove Jansson – Dulwich Picture Gallery



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If you want to treat your children – and your inner child – between now and next January, then look no further than Dulwich Picture Gallery. Here, the magnificent Tove Jansson 1914-2001 exhibition is taking place. By now, your Moomin ears will have pricked up – but  Jansson was so much more than the creator of these snouty, cuddly creatures. As her niece Sonia told us at the press view, Tove (pronounced Tu-va) only created the Moomin kingdom in the later part of her working life.

Born in Helsinki, Jansson studied art in Stockholm, and the self-portraits in Room 1 date from this time in her life. She portrays herself in various moods and settings, and demonstrates her skill with using colour. On display is a portrait of her friend and lover, Maya (1938). Paintings like Mysterious Landscape (1930s) reveal the darker side of the artist’s imagination, who from her childhood imbibed the Norse folk tales that her Swedish mother told her. Her studies finished, Jansson returned to Helsinki and in this area, a vitrine displays the many cover illustrations that she created for Garm magazine. Dating from the 1940’s, many of them lampoon Nazi Germany.

Tove Jansson Illustration for the Book, Comet in Moominland, 1946 Digikuvanro 150422YE012 originaalin valokuvaus 2015-04-22 valokuvaaja: Aaltonen, Hannu digiluokitus: digioriginaali digitointilaite: Canon EOS 5D Mark II kuvank??sittelyohjelmisto: Photoshop cs6

Tove Jansson, Illustration for the Book,
Comet in Moominland, 1946

In Room 2, more paintings are displayed and do look out for Garden (1943). This evocation of flowers and sunshine shows the lighter side of the artist’s nature. In Room 3 are several of the illustrations that Jansson created for stories like The Hunting of the Snark and Alice in Wonderland, a prelude to her own writing career. Finally, in Room 4 and Room 5, we happen upon the Moomin memorabilia and glorious it is. Drawings and watercolours hang upon brightly-coloured walls while at floor-level, painted-on Moomins scamper about, tumble over and balance on their heads.

In short, they do everything that Moomins can do, which is plenty. The exhibits are too numerous to list in detail but do look into the vitrine of Moomin figurines. Look out also for the watercolours that Jansson painted to illustrate her book, Dangerous Journey. If you see one of these pictures – and you will want to see them all – of the fantastic cat with arched back and outstretched paws, its eyes blazing as it fixates on a teeny, Moomin creature in the grass, all against a backdrop of fiery sun – what’s not to love?

Room 5 is dedicated to the cartoon strips that Jansson made of her stories. According to Sonia Jansson, her aunt became Europe’s second female strip cartoonist. On display here are posters advertising the dramas and stage shows that Moomins eventually wandered into. The exhibition is complete with a play area furnished with Moomin books , where you can leave the little ones while you peruse the treasures of this glorious exhibition.

It is open until January 28, 2018.

 

(Mary Phelan, 2017)

About Mary Phelan

I am an art historian, magazine editor and design philosopher. In addition to editing Artyonline, I have my own website, http://www.maryphelan.info/ and write a blog, Design Victim, on the pain and pleasure of encountering designed objects in modern life. http://maryphelan.blogspot.com/ Readers can also follow my latest Hub Pages article that provides directions on how to create Ray Lichtenstein-type images using computer drawing software. http://hubpages.com/hub/Draw-Like-Lichtenstein-Using-Computer-Graphic-Software