Tove Jansson – creator of the Moomins

Tove Jansson and her companion, graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä, donated their collections to Tampere Art Museum in 1986. The Moomin Museum is taking care of Jansson’s Moomin Art collection and presenting it in international museums and touring exhibitions abroad. The museum is also exhibiting threedimensional tableaux built mainly by Pietilä that you can see only in the Moomin Museum. The Moomin Museum is one of the few museums dedicated to a female artists in Finland.

Tove Jansson was born in Helsinki on August 9, 1914, the first-born child of Finnish sculptor Viktor Jansson and Swedish graphic artist and illustrator Signe Hammarsten-Jansson. Jansson had two younger brothers, Per Olov (b.1920) and Lars (b.1924). From an early age, Tove Jansson took a great interest in writing and drawing. She drew her first Moomin on the wall of the outdoor privy at the family’s summer retreat in Pellinki in a fit of rage after arguing with her brothers.

©Moomin CharactersTM.
Tove Jansson and Lars Jansson

From her early youth, Jansson wanted nothing more than to become a painter. She studied art in Stockholm and Helsinki, and later also in Paris. In the 1930s Jansson began contributing cartoons for the satirical magazine Garm. During the war, she incorporated a figure reminiscent of Moomintroll as part of her signature.

Profoundly affected by the outbreak of war in 1939, Jansson found it difficult to find inspiration to paint. She sought escape from the horrors of the war by creating a fairy-tale world in a happy, green valley where the Moomins and their friends led a peaceful, carefree existence. Her first Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood (Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen) was published in 1945. In all, she published 13 Moomin books, the last of which is a photo-illustrated picture book co-authored with her brother Per Olov Larsson.

Jansson was not only an author and illustrator, but also a painter, cartoonist and comic strip artist. In addition to authoring Moomin books, she also published novels and collections of short stories. She painted a number of renowned murals and also illustrated stories by other writers. During the 1950s, she featured the Moomin characters not only in her novels, but also in in her murals, picture books and comic strips. The comic strip influenced her style of drawing, bringing crisper definition to her later Moomin illustrations.

Jansson spent the winters working in her studio residence in the Helsinki district of Ullanlinna. She was highly methodical in her creative process, first writing the manuscript and then designing the illustrations and layout.

Jansson loved the sea. She spent her childhood summers in the island community of Pellinki near Porvoo. She later spent thirty summers with her partner, the graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä (1917–2009), on the island of Klovharu.

©Moomin CharactersTM.
Tove and Tuulikki spent 30 summers on the island of Klovharun.

Tuulikki Pietilä was a bold pioneer and influential teacher of graphic art. She also studied sculpture, a skill that proved useful when she and Jansson began working on three-dimensional Moomin figures together with their friend, the physician Pentti Eistola.

The last Moomin story, Moominvalley in November (Sent i november) was written in 1970. Jansson died thirty years later in 2001. Today she is known around the world as the beloved creator of the Moomins. Her Moomin books have been translated into over 50 languages.