Dulwich Picture Gallery has the first major UK retrospective of work by one of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century, Tove Jansson (1914-2001). Known internationally as creator of the Moomin characters and books, a phenomenon which continues to stretch across generations, Jansson’s wider outputs of graphic illustration and painting are relatively unseen outside her home country of Finland.
The exhibition will bring together 150 works to reintroduce Jansson as an artist of exceptional breadth and talent, tracing the key stages of her prolific career, including her surrealist-inspired paintings of the 1930s and abstract work of the ‘60s, her satirical anti-war cartoons and book jacket designs, as well as a comprehensive display of early sketches for the Moomin characters and original comic strips.
During her first decades as an artist, Jansson produced an astonishing variety of illustrations. At the young age of 15, her already formidable talent for caricature caught the attention of the liberal political satire magazine, Garm, and she went on to draw more than 500 caricatures and 100 cover images for them. In contrast to her paintings, Jansson eagerly captured the ravages of war in her illustrations, employing them to such an extent that the political cartoons she published openly under her own name were quite daring. A display of illustrations will reveal Jansson’s boldness and staunch opposition to war, fascism and totalitarianism.
Illustrating for Garm provided Jansson with the experimental space to introduce the first resemblance of Moomintroll who appeared as the long snouted troll, ‘Snork’ in 1943. He would have frequent cameo appearances in her future drawings for the magazine, appearing in the sidelines or embroiled in the cartoon itself.
The Moomin characters brought together Jansson’s gifts as an artist with her fluency as a writer. Jansson began writing stories about the Moomins during the war. As early as the 1930s she had drawn Moomin-like figures that were black and thin, with red eyes, whilst the Moomins we know today are rounder and friendlier in appearance.
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. Tove Jansson’s works convey a profound understanding of human diversity.
Tove Jansson (1914-2001) is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD From 25 October 2017 – 28 January 2018; Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm (And Bank Holidays).
Admission: Tickets: £15.50 Adult, £14.50 Senior Citizens, £7 concessions.