Iconic Nordic artist Tove Jansson’s unique folkloric world

The strange and endearing Moomin characters conceived by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson were informed as much by ancient Nordic folktales as they were the stunning natural beauty of the islands on Finland’s archipelago, where she lived and worked. One can quite easily imagine the wild vastness of green, edged by sparkling blue waters, being the real-life home to the Water Nymph or the Snork Maiden, who occupy Jansson’s fictional Moomin Valley.

To celebrate 100 years since Jansson’s birth, London’s ICA is presenting a retrospective of the artist’s magical work. The exhibition features original unseen photographs and material relating to her life and work, illustrated books and early first editions. Copies of her illustrations for the London Evening News are also on display, as well as intimate portraits of Jansson’s life on her private island, every bit as fantastical as the world of the Moomin Valley.

Tove Jansson in her Studio, 1990s
Tove Jansson in her studio, 1990s

The candid snaps were shot over a period of 60 years by her dear friend, renowned Finnish photographer C-G Hagström, and her brother, the photographer Per Olov Jansson. Rare family photographs capture the great natural beauty of the island on which she spent the summer months with her female companion Tuulikki Pietilä, and the collection also provides unprecedented insight into Jansson’s enchanting studio in Helskini, including charming photographs of the artist surrounded by large-scale models of her beloved Moomins. Bewitching audiences with her fanciful brand of creativity, Jansson’s appeal spans generations and will most certainly extend years into the future.

Tove Jansson


Tove Jansson

Images: Lead illustration image by Tove Jansson, courtesy of Oy Moomin Characters Ltd. All photographs taken by Per Olov Jansson, courtesy of the ICA.