Mother of Moomins

Yesterday I finally visited Ateneum’s extensive centenary exhibition, dedicated to the anniversary of Tove Jansson’s birthday. (And, yes, sorry for this “Game of Thrones” allusion in the title, could not resist the temptation).

Joking apart – Tove is respected and loved by, literally, the whole Finnish nation. I also used to say that I love Jansson, but by saying that I referred solely to my feeling towards the inhabitants of Moominvalley. I first met them when I was seven and it took me a few decades to understand the beauty of their interaction and to start “preaching” their philosophy. But here, in the museum halls, carried by the crowds of visitors (combination of the words crowd and museum is usually an oxymoron in Finland but Tove made it happen), I realized that I didn’t know much about Jansson herself.

“The exhibition covers all periods in Jansson’s productive career: surrealistic paintings of the 1930s, modernist art of the 1950s, abstract works of the 60s and 70s, and her satirical anti-war illustrations for Garm” (c) from Ateneum’s press-release. So, not only Tove Jansson (1914-2001) made an impressive writing carrer, but she was an artist, illustrator, and political caricaturist!

There is plenty to see: black and white photos, sketches, portraits, still life, landscapes, 3D miniatures of idyllic Moominhouse, and as enormous as hideous foam head of Moomin… And surprisingly, seeing Jansson’s life on the canvas reassures that Moominvalley is not a never-never land, it actually did exist for Tove. With the sea, boats, lighthouses and red rocks as the main landmarks. First, as the island of Bredskär, then in each day of 28 Klovharu summers in Pellinki archipelago. Even during Helsinki winter time Jansson chose to live only in the maritime districts of Katajanokka, Töölö and, for several decades, Ullanlinna.

Soothing, calming, with a glimpse of magic and definitely worth going. And if after you feel the urge to reread “Moominsummer Madness” or hug Snorkmaiden – the souvenir shop on the 1st floor is bursting with Moomin family members of all sizes and textures.

Here you can read my article about Moomins (in Russian) and about a trip to the lighthouse near Pellinki (in Russian).

Mystic Landscape/Mystinen maisema, 1930


Juhlat kaupungissa/Party in the City, 1947


View to the balcony/Näkymä parvekkeelle, 1961





Tove Jansson’s exhibition in Ateneum will last till 07.09.2014

Ateneum’s opening hours: Mon closed |Tue, Fri 10–18 | Wed, Thu 9–20 | Sat, Sun 10-17

Ticket price: 12€/10€

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