Tove and the Moomins – a fantastic story

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Raise the curtain

Alma Pöysti in Tove © Helsinki-filmi

Our reasons to present this article are threefold – We would like to introduce an exceptionally strong female personality in recognition of International Women’s Day.  At the same time we look back to our Throwback Thursday exhibition of Tove Jansson and her Moomins from 2013.  And lastly we would like to acknowledge our exciting upcoming exhibition in the Günter Grass-Haus “The Fantastic World of Tove Jansson”.  It will open on the 27th of March in the presence of actress Alma Pöysti. Pöysti portrays Tove Jansson in the new film about her life..

The unconventional life of the female, Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson (1914-2001), the painter and poet from Finland, is a cultural icon in her homeland. Abroad, she is better known as an author of children’s books. But what an extraordinary career as an artist she had and what an exciting life she led as a woman – that will hopefully become better known in our country in the near future. At the Nordic Film Festival last November, the biographical film “Tove” was shown, filmed by the Finnish director Zaida Bergroth. The film creates a fascinating panorama of the artistic bohemia at the northernmost edge of Europe. In the middle of it all lives the young art student Tove, herself the daughter of a well-known Finnish-Swedish sculptor, struggling to find her own independent artistic language. She is a painter and yet struggles repeatedly with the motif and her expression on every canvas never really arriving at a result that is satisfactory to her. Politics and art are woven throughout her circle of friends, she begins an affair with the writer and socialist politician Atos Wirtanen, earning her money with political caricatures, an artistic craft which she had learnt from her mother.  Sadly, her mother – typical of the older generation of female artists – was unable to assert herself in the art world, giving up her career to support her husband, she did however through the sale of her graphic work generate enough money to be able to help the family survive. Tove Jansson thus also struggles with the difficult role model of the artistically gifted mother. In the film, the artistic as well as the personal identity crises are brought together and resolve themselves in her most famous creation today – the Moomins. While Jansson initially only invents the Moomin characters on the side, drawing and drafting her first novel, she eventually realises two things: that she loves women and that her genuine form of expression lies in the combination of writing and drawing. She begins an affair with the married director Vivica Bandler and hides this great secret in the cute characters Tofsla and Vifsla, who scurry through the Moomin world carrying a treasure chest.

The Moomins of the Augsburger Puppenkiste © Elmar Herr

The Moomin trolls were already with us nine years ago during the exhibition “Schweben, Träumen, Leben. Tove Jansson’s Moomin Figures“. This touring exhibition by the Finnish Institute was aimed especially at families with children with a walk-in Moomin House, the boat that plays a major role for Moomin Papa in particular. The Augsburger Puppenkiste had already staged an adventure of the Moomins in 1959 and these figures also enriched the exhibition. The droll Moomins with their infinite lovability hide the fact that Tove Jansson moved further and further away from the typical children’s book in her Moomin comics and novels over the years and increasingly dealt with serious and philosophical themes.

The Moomin trolls were already with us nine years ago during the exhibition “Schweben, Träumen, Leben. Tove Jansson’s Moomin Figures”. This touring exhibition by the Finnish Institute was aimed especially at families with children with a walk-in Moomin House, the boat that plays a major role for Moomin Papa in particular. The Augsburger Puppenkiste had already staged an adventure of the Moomins in 1959 and these figures also enriched the exhibition. The droll Moomins with their infinite lovability hide the fact that Tove Jansson moved further and further away from the typical children’s book in her Moomin comics and novels over the years and increasingly dealt with serious and philosophical themes.

Tove Jansson in the Günter Grass House

The forthcoming exhibition at the Günter Grass House traces this arc from Jansson’s relatively unknown early work in painting to the creation of the Moomin world and her late novels for adults, thus finally putting the multifaceted work of this exciting and important European artist in the spotlight befitting her – Happy International Women’s Day, Tove!

Tove Jansson with her Moomins © Carl Gustav Hagström

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