The artist Tove Jansson

Appearing in my Facebook feed a couple of days ago, passed on by Joelle Stepien Bailard, this self-portrait of Swedish-speaking Finnish artist Tove Jansson:


(#1) Tove Jansson (1914-2001), Self-portrait in a fur hat (1941)

From my 10/19/14 posting “Tove Jansson tomorrow”:

Another multiple talent who doesn’t usually get pegged as Artist (without qualification), like many others I’ve written about on this blog (Edward Gorey, for instance). Charming but complex [Moomintroll] books for children (a favorite in our household when my daughter was young), among other things.

The question is how to apply the cultural categories of graphic artistry, which distinguish a category of true Artists or fine artists from all sorts of other forms of artistic production. Jansson, Gorey, Sendak, and others became celebrated for work that wasn’t created within the institutional and commercial structures of the art world and was conceived of as performing some cultural function other than producing “art for art’s sake” in acts of pure creativity.

The larger category of (graphic) artistic producers includes not only the uniquely valorized fine artists, but also those labeled as illustrators, graphic designers, commercial artists, cartoonists, caricaturists, folk artists, and craftsmen. (Even within this narrow category of fine artists, some subcategories are set aside as peripheral: performance artists and conceptual artists, in particular.)

As it happens, Jansson was trained as a fine artist — see #1 above — and continued to work as such throughout her life, though her fame comes from her illustrations and cartoons, and from her writing.

More from my 10/19/14 posting:


(#2) The Moomin family

On Jansson, from Wikipedia:

… Her first solo art exhibition was in 1943. At the same time, she was writing short stories and articles for publication, as well as creating the graphics for book covers and other purposes. She continued to work as an artist for the rest of her life, alongside her writing.

Jansson is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children.

… (Folded into [the Wikipedia entry] is the information that Jansson’s life partner [‎Tuulikki Pietilä] was a woman.)

A few years after #1, and already into Moomin times (the first Moomintroll book was published in 1945), this 1947 wall mural “Party in the City”, reproduced on the Card Alley 6 site:


(#3) Jansson herself is in the picture, seated at the table in the foreground. A Moomin is visible beside her glass.

Then from the Tales for Tadpoles site on 8/2/17, this drawing:


(#4) A self-portrait with Moomin characters

And one of Jansson’s illustrations for a Swedish translation of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark:


(#5) They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care; / They pursued it with forks and hope; / They threatened its life with a railway-share; / They charmed it with smiles and soap.

(Jansson also did illustrations for an edition of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.)

And then a cartoon in which prospective artist Moomintroll pleads to have a little peace:


(#6) It’s the beret that makes the artist

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