Pentti Eistola 1931–2022 – ”Building the big house was so much fun!”

Dr. Pentti Eistola died in Helsinki on the 11th of January 2022. His creative touch can be seen by everyone who visits the Moomin Museum.

Eistola’s long friendship with Tove Jansson (1914─2001), Tove’s partner, graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä (1917─2009) and Tove’s mother, artist Signe Hammarsten-Jansson or Ham (1882─1970) brought another dimension to the visual world of the Moomins.

Eistola’s first model build sparked his friendship with artist-writer Jansson in the late 1950s. He offered a little house that he had built to Tove, but it was only named The First Moomin House later. The creatives started building additions to the small light blue house. Eistola, Ham, Tove and Tuulikki built a woodshed and a wall around it, which according to Eistola looked like “a wall around a church yard”. Among other elements, the wall included tooth fillings. Ham also created the elegant greenhouse and the carefully built little woodshed to add to the tableau.

The collaboration continued, and the group built several tableaux, including The Bathing House and the Launch of the Oshun Oxtra. The magical, lively miniature worlds of the Moomin tableaux sometimes faithfully reproduce stories from the books, and sometimes the artwork is independent of its source. The largest tableau is the blue Moomin House, which stands over two metres tall and was built for the Tove Jansson illustration exhibition at the 1979 Biennial of Illustrations in Bratislava. Over the next few years, the Moomin House was seen in different museums from Bratislava to the Nordic countries. Tove Jansson’s collection gift to the museum included over 40 tableaux, and most of them are displayed at the Moomin Museum. The tableaux are now too fragile to travel.

The skilled craftsman Eistola complemented Tove and Tuulikki’s creative vision perfectly, and the labour was neatly divided during the build of the Moomin House. Eistola was the main designer and electrician and built corridors and staircases. Working with visuals, Eistola’s profession was an advantage: “A doctor, I remember what I see.” Tuulikki’s brother, the architect Reima Pietilä (1923─1993) checked the structure of the house. Tuulikki Pietilä sculpted characters, windows and doors. Tove Jansson painted, wallpapered and covered the roof with thousands of wood shingles.

As opposed to their other work, building the tableaux was creative play for the group. Eistola described Saturday evenings at Tove’s studio in Helsinki: “Our friends kept asking, what are they doing? They’re playing!”

All the quotes are from a conversation with Pentti Eistola in Helsinki in December 2021.

Photo archive of Tampere Art Museum.
Tuulikki Pietilä, Pentti Eistola, Tove Jansson and Anneli Ilmonen, director of Tampere Art Museum, at the inauguration of the extension of Moominvalley, 29.4.1994.