Tove Jansson Retrospective at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

“MOOMINS CREATOR TOVE JANSSON AT DULWICH” / Creative Review / Patrick Burgoyne / October 21, 2016

As a child, I fell in love with the work of Tove Jansson. More specifically, I fell in love with the Moomins and the curious characters who inhabited their world.

The stories were funny, whimsical but also magical and odd. Today, any child wanting to know who ‘Tove Jansson’ was would just pick up their phone and Google it: in the 70s, her curious name just added to the mystery of the books to me.

We’ve come to know a little more about Jansson’s life thanks to Eleonor Yule's documentary until recently, was available on the BBC iPlayer. The film revealed Jansson’s wider work as well as her desire to be recognised as a fine artist.

“It was hugely important to Tove that she be recognised as a talented fine artist in addition to being the creator of the Moomins,” her niece Sophia Jansson has said. “Balancing her painting and her other projects alongside the demands that the Moomins made of her was something she struggled with all her life. I’m delighted that Dulwich Picture Gallery is putting on this exhibition which will make Tove’s wider artistic output accessible to a UK audience, who may not yet be familiar with her work outside of Moominvalley.”

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s show, which is set to open in October 2017 and run until January 2018, will highlight the breadth of her work, from cartoons and illustration, to portraits, landscapes and, of course, the Moomins themselves. Among 150 works, it will include a series of Moomin drawings only this year discovered at the British Cartoon Archive.

I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but a large part of the enduring appeal of those books is in their attitude toward accepting and welcoming strangers, not matter who (or what) they are.

“In Europe and the world today, Tove’s art and stories are more relevant than ever. Her entire oeuvre and way of thinking are characterised by the acceptance of differences. Although the family circle – both the artist’s own and the fictional Moomin family – is central, the door is always open for those seeking shelter,” says Sointu Fritze, curator of the exhibition. “Tove Jansson’s works convey a profound understanding of human diversity. This show will reveal fascinating new insights into a colourful life and the work that came out of it.”

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